With so much attention focused on the entirely unforeseen popularity of that bombastic billionaire, it is easy to forget that Virginia has its own candidate for the Republican presidential nomination.
He’s a man who made many friends and few enemies while serving as the 68th Governor of The Commonwealth. A man respected by both the establishment and grassroots. And the only candidate in the race who can honestly boast of both governing a state and accumulating legitimate foreign policy credentials.
You may have forgotten about Jim Gilmore. You may have written him off as a long shot. Or a guy whose time has come and gone.
You may have seen the latest Monmouth poll that has the three candidates in the race who have spent not a single day in office – Donald Trump, Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina – racking up 56% in Iowa, while the candidates with political experience were left with the crumbs – 44% between the 14 of them.
But far from being discouraged by the prevailing anti-politician sentiment in the party, Gilmore says he is encouraged by what he’s seeing. While Trump, Carson and Fiorina have been all the rage in the outsiders lane, no one has come close to separating from the field in the politicians’ lane.
“I’m polling ahead of several of the candidates – Pataki and Graham among them – and Jeb Bush is in single digits. There is still plenty of time…”
When it comes to Trump, Gilmore is not a fan. “I share a lot of the anger and resentment of Republican voters, but Trump is channeling that anger the wrong way. We have a no growth economy, wages are down, resulting in a bad quality of life. Our focus should be on what’s going on Washington, not on the immigration issue.”
Gilmore offers a more traditional conservative plan for combating illegal immigration: controlling the borders, though he makes no specific mention of a wall on our southern border. And Gilmore said in a statement released by his campaign on Friday, “I will debate Donald Trump on his wrongheaded view of the 14th Amendment and his determination to deny children born in America birthright citizenship.”
His message is one of economic growth, the focus of his work heading the Free Congress Foundation (full disclosure: I have contributed to it) since his unsuccessful runs in 2008 for President (where he said he represented “the Republican wing of the Republican Party”) and then the US Senate, where he was rolled over by the Obama wave.
On foreign policy, he is pounding away on the need to restore American leadership. Gilmore knows of what he speaks, after heading up what came to be known as the Gilmore Commission, a federal advisory panel on terrorism and WMD’s, for five years surrounding 9-11.
The former Governor is focusing his attention on New Hampshire, where he has traveled many times in recent months, and received some tangible pledges of support and decent media attention.
The thinking is that a respectable showing in New Hampshire would give him enough traction – and financial support – to be competitive in South Carolina, where his southern heritage could play well, as it could in the Virginia contest and the many others in what is being called the SEC primary on March 1.
Gilmore offers himself up as a steady, reliable and trustworthy hand at the wheel. The anti-Trump if you will. The tortoise to Trump’s hare.
Long shot? Absolutely, but not entirely without precedent. There once was another little-known southern Governor who, in another kick-the-bums-out election in 1976, came out of nowhere to beat three well-known, respected and better financed Senators (Jackson, Udall and Church), the Governor of the nation’s largest state (Jerry Brown) and George Wallace, who many are trying to compare to Donald Trump. And Jimmy Carter went on to defeat a sitting President and become America’s 39th Chief Executive.
When a trash-talking real estate magnate and a pediatric neurosurgeon can each garner more than 20% of the vote anywhere, anything seems possible in this political year like no other.