Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Reagan Conservatives, Your Candidate is not Dead

Don't count George Allen out

Ed Lynch

Lynch is chairman of the Roanoke County Republican Party.

In the wake of the Senate election results in Virginia, George Allen's political obituary is being written ... again. By my count, this is the fifth time political experts have tried to shovel dirt on his grave, prematurely.

In the 2008 presidential polls, which started coming out within hours of the 2006 elections, Allen's name is not even included, although Democratic polls still include Al Gore, John Kerry and Howard Dean. Losing a single election does not necessarily mean permanent exile from presidential consideration.

There is no reason to assume Allen is definitively out of the 2008 race, although his task is formidable. The pundits who are writing him off ignore some pertinent facts.

First, there was no other candidate in the United States whom the national Democratic Party worked harder to destroy this year. Democrats tried to defeat most other Republicans; they worked to savage Allen.

Every part of the Democratic coalition -- the mainstream media, labor, the anti-war left, and both Bill and Hillary Clinton -- descended on Virginia to defeat Allen. Moreover, they did so by using their most vile campaign tactics, making Allen's race almost a microcosm of Democratic dirty tricks.

The Democrats, by their actions, have declared Allen to be the front-runner for 2008, even if Republicans have not yet done so. Allen's opponents are deathly afraid of him, and always have been.

Second, in spite of all of the Democrats' efforts, Allen lost by only about 9,000 votes, out of more than 2.3 million cast. A change of only three votes per precinct, and Allen would be starting his second term as U.S. Senator, and, I might add for those pundits who see a Democratic mandate in the national results, the Republicans would still be in control of the Senate.

Third, it is not cable news political pundits -- least of all the now-discredited Larry Sabato -- who get to choose the candidates for the GOP nomination. That task belongs to hard-working, dedicated Republican political activists, in places like Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and, yes, Virginia.

One Iowa GOP county chair recently called me to ask about Allen. He began by saying, "Lots of us are looking for someone we can really get behind," and he finished our conversation by asking, "So how do I get aboard this train?" Look for Allen to continue to receive invitations to the early primary states.

For Republican primary voters, Allen can come to symbolize the mud-slinging, no-holds-barred, do-absolutely-anything-to-win Democratic campaign of 2006.

It was a year in which some Democratic bloggers openly hoped for another terrorist attack so that President Bush could be blamed and a Democratic majority assured.

Democrats got their majority and created millions of Republican activists looking for the best way to retaliate. Voting for the man whom Democrats tried hardest to defeat will hold a definite appeal.

I do not mean to minimize the difficulty of Allen's task, or excuse the mistakes of his 2006 campaign. But the adversity has immunized him from further personal attack. By 2008, personal attacks on Allen will reek of yesterday's news.

Moreover, he is now the consummate underdog, as he was when he ran for governor in 1993. He can run the sort of aggressive, anti-establishment, insurgent campaign at which he is best.

Allen's political obituary has been written before. In 1979, after he lost his first political race, pundits in Charlottesville wrote him off.

In 1993, after a poor performance at a debate, no less an authority than the then-head of the Republican Party of Virginia gave up on Allen.

And Harris Miller, who ran against Jim Webb in the Democratic primary, tried to pronounce Allen dead and buried on the day of Allen's inauguration as governor.

In fact, 2006 offers an exact parallel from earlier in Allen's career. In 1991, after Allen served one term in Congress, the entire Virginia Democratic establishment collaborated to redraw the state's congressional district lines to deny Allen his seat. And the Democrats congratulated themselves for successfully doing so. Two years later, the Democrats' glib smugness vanished, as Allen returned, this time as governor.

Now, after Allen served one term in the Senate, the entire national Democratic establishment collaborated to smear his character, destroy his reputation and deny him his seat. And they are, once again, congratulating themselves for doing so.

Democrats should have learned to be more careful what they wish for. History sometimes repeats itself.