Conventional wisdom says that the few weeks after a hard-fought primary should be downtime for the candidates as they rest up for a long general election run. That hasn’t happened in Virginia’s 5th District. Let’s kick off a series of updates on what’s going on…
- The first blunder of this campaign belongs to Robert Hurt’s team. After originally saying he was willing to add Jeff Clark into the inevitable debates, his campaign
immediatelybacktracked (Editor’s note: After recieving a comment that said “immediately” was wrong, I’ve deleted that word.) and said that Hurt had no interest in debating Jeff Clark. Robert Hurt is guilty of being eager to jump into the campaign (which isn’t a sin at all), but he’s also guilty of political naivety be failing to remember a cardinal law of political debates… “You don’t want to debate somebody when you have little to gain from that person. Jeff Clark’s most fervent supporters have very little interest in Robert Hurt and probably will vote for Clark in the end. The good news about that is that those fervent supporters are relatively few people and it probably won’t affect the election’s final results. When Clark’s supporters are known for saying the infamous “I’d rather have Perriello for two instead of Hurt for 20”, there’s absolutely no sense in devoting valuable campaign resources to attempting to switch those voters’ minds at this stage of the campaign.
- This debate kerfluffle shows that Robert Hurt has campaign managers who know how to play the game. In the short-term, this makes Hurt look bad for “going back on his word” and his opponents can get some early hits in. I’m predicting that the Hurt & Perriello campaigns will come up with debate rules which will include “anybody that is polling more than X% in the polls” which will surgically exclude Clark. It’s a common debate rule that was used in the 2005 Kaine/Kilgore Virginia’s governor race. In that race, the campaigns agreed on a 15% threshold which eliminated Russ Potts from consideration. Potts and his campaign screamed “Unfair!” to no avail and he ended up sequestered in a TV station office and had to answer the debate questions in front of a chroma-key wall and be edited into the debate footage (and very few people watched the “created” version). Potts went down to 2.2% in the general election and was a non-factor.
- Tom Perriello’s campaign (to no surprise) is saying that they’re eager to have Jeff Clark in the debate schedule for now, as the vast majority of Clark’s supporters are the far-right “fringe” voters who predominately vote for the Republican candidate. Perriello’s campaign is perfectly happy to let Jeff Clark do whatever he wants at this stage of the game. That “free play” time will come to a screeching halt if Clark starts attacking Perriello. If Clark believes that he can win this election (he can’t), he will have to start changing the minds of Perriello voters. That’s another reason why I think both the Hurt & Perriello campaigns will agree to debate rules that will exclude anybody that has less than X% in polls.
- Money fuels campaigns and wins elections. Robert Hurt has a lot of money. Tom Perriello has a boatload of money. Jeff Clark has no money. Hurt & Perriello are going to have a continuous money stream until Election Day. Clark doesn’t have that stream of money and I don’t foresee any money miracle happening for his campaign.
- Let’s talk about Jim McKelvey. He used everything he had against Hurt yet came up well short in the primary. His campaign released an email on the election night which seemed to throw his support behind Hurt then went off in his own direction, creating his own political action committee. Over the past week, McKelvey has been quiet. What’s he up to? Jeff Clark seemed to have a close working relationship with McKelvey during the primary, even letting McKelvey run a mini-office out of his office space is downtown Danville. McKelvey is a potential source of funding for Clark, but even McKelvey’s money won’t be nearly enough for Clark to participate in the inevitable advertising onslaught.
- What’s going on with Mike McPadden? He finished in 3rd place in the primary with a very respectable 10%, but performed poorly in Southside.
He’s the only former candidate (besides McKelvey) not to throw his support behind Hurt.Personally, I feel that McPadden has taken his defeat personally and if that’s so, I hope he gets past that quickly. I firmly believe that Mike McPadden has a future in this region’s political arena if he wants one.
That’s enough for now. We’ll be featuring regular updates on the 5th District happenings on a regular basis.