Sunday, January 24, 2010

National Coverage of the 5th District Race

This morning's Post includes a prominent piece about the 5th District and the race to take on Tom Perriello.

Amy Gardner frames the story (here) as an example of the tension between the Tea Parties and the mainline Republican Party:

In such places as Virginia's 5th District, conservatives are uncompromising. Their goal isn't simply to reclaim the seat from Democrats: They want to fill it with only the purest of conservatives. Unless leaders can bring the disparate groups together in districts like these, Republicans are likely to offset every unexpected victory they gain in a place such as Massachusetts with an unlikely loss elsewhere. Already the dynamic is playing out in various ways in races in Texas, Florida, Tennessee and elsewhere.
Gardner writes that Eric Cantor's contribution of $7,000 towards Robert Hurt's campaign is fodder for the Tea Party candidates' argument that Hurt is not the true choice of the people but is being foisted upon them a la New York 23. Gardner says that there are currently at least 5 Tea Party organizations in the 5th.

The fact that this story is getting such prominent coverage in the Washington Post (front page, and above the fold!!) could end up being influential, for this reason: As we go through the campaign season, the national media will need certain races to latch onto, as they paint the narrative of the Tea Party insurgencies (I'm thinking in particular of the cable political shows - Olbermann, O'Reilly, Maddow, etc.).

So far, the prime example (ie, a race receiving national coverage) is the Marco Rubio vs. Charlie Crist contest for the GOP nomination in Florida.

The media will need other specific races on which to focus, in order to analyze how the Tea Party phenomenon evolves -- in particular, whether the Tea Parties are willing to play within the two-party system or will instead opt to run third parties (at the risk of contributing to the re-election of Democrats).

If the 5th District race does becomes nationalized in this way, I imagine that a great deal of national money could flow in (to all three sides), and it seems that this would increase the odds of a third party run by one of the Tea Partiers.

And here's an interesting way it could evolve: is it possible that Ken Boyd becomes the compromise candidate that's acceptable to enough Tea Party and mainline Republicans? It seems that perhaps he is positioning himself that way; for instance, in a forum on Friday night (which Hurt didn't attend), most of the candidates took quite extreme views against environmental legislation, whereas Boyd seemed to position himself as a bit more moderate.

Gardner reports that even Tom Perriello's opponents are impressed with his (1) work ethic and (2) sincerity:

At the peak of the public fury over the health-care debate last summer, he held 21 town hall meetings totaling 100 hours, more than any other member of Congress ... Perriello's outreach has not gone unnoticed, and even many of his opponents acknowledge his sincerity.

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