What A Weekend
Well, there's just so much to tell about this weekend's GOP Advance that I don't know where to start. I'll admit I was a bit worried that the weekend might devolve into a two-day bitch session, but it was quite to the contrary.
I was energized and rejuvenated to see so many friends and fellow Republican activists together in one place. The speeches were upbeat and inspiring, the chatter was forward-looking, and everyone seemed ready to shake off the defeat and focus on the next round. Sure there was a fair amount of bitching and finger-pointing, but overall I was very pleased with the mood of the Advance.
The hospitality suites were jumping on Friday night with most of the action seeming to take place in the hallway between the suite of the Republican Senate Victory PAC and the suite of Representatives Davis, Davis, and Goodlatte. I was very pleased to have a chance to speak with the 5 conservative Senators who make up RSVP, as well as several like-minded Delegates who were milling about themselves. As I heard one person say, it is a sad state of affairs when the conservatives are considered the rogue faction of the GOP. Unfortunately that seems to the case in the State Senate right now. Things will continue to be difficult in that body, but I'm glad to see that not everyone is giving the tax-raisers there a pass. Re-electing these five outstanding Senators should be job #1 in '07.
On Saturday, the fun continued with a number of great speeches and strategy sessions. Jerry Kilgore showed remarkable class and gumption by showing up and delivering a sincere and humble speech. Kilgore is a great guy and it still bothers me that he'll never have the chance to serve as Governor. Bob McDonnell showed very good humor making several jokes about his razor-thin margin of victory in the AG's race while Bill Bolling delivered some of the red meat he is so well known for. I also really enjoyed listening to Kate Griffin, as she drew upon the history of our party to offer some strong words of encouragement to the party faithful in attendance. I find the chairwoman to be a tremendous asset to our party and I certainly hope she'll have the opportunity for a statewide run sometime in the future.
Needless to say, the main event people were there to see was our '08 Republican Nominee, George Allen (yes that's '08, not '06). I took notes on Allen's speech because I expected it to be a preview of what kind of campaign we might see from him in a couple of years. I must say I was impressed. Certainly, its not a polished stump speech at this point, but I thought he hit on the appropriate themes for the moment. I have two main observations here. First, Allen talked exclusively about national issues. Even when he approached things from a Virginia perspective, he was still addressing issues with national significance. Secondly, Allen did not talk about a single solitary social issue. He talked about fiscal responsibility, energy independence, national security and the like, but the closest he came to a "social" issue was calling for more federal judges in the mold of Roberts and Alito.
If you didn't know by now, George Allen is basically a libertarian. Talking about economic conservative issues is where he is strongest and it is where he sounds most Reagan-esque. Allen's focus on the line item veto is a smart move by his campaign team, especially if it is somehow able to pass before '08. Now social conservatives shouldn't be scared by an Allen's libertarian leanings. Allen is NOT a social liberal like Giuliani. He has proven faithful to social conservative causes throughout his career, and there is no reason to believe that would change should he ascend to the White House. Allen might not get way out in front on these issues, but he certainly won't allow any backsliding either. In short, I believe George Allen remains our party's best hope to retain the White House in '08.
Finally a couple of other individuals who impressed me this weekend were folks that might have their eyes on a statewide run in '09 or later. One was US Attorney for the Western District of Virginia, John Brownlee. Brownlee has an impressive resume, a charming demeanor, and a beautiful family. I don't know how he is on the stump, but when I talked to him, he sure seemed like someone who could be a formidable candidate for AG. The others were Delegates Ben Cline and Chris Saxman. These two Shenandoah Valley area legislators are young, dynamic, and solidly conservative. They obviously understand the issues facing our Commonwealth very well and are poised to make some noise in the General Assembly in the coming years. I have a feeling that the Republican faithful will soon learn to love these guys, if they don't already, and that Tim Kaine and his cronies may soon convert their names into epithets.
Well, that's about all I've got. In closing, I must say that I am as happy as ever to be a Republican and that, despite the recent election results, I am extremely proud to live in the Commonwealth of Virginia. I have no doubt that if we follow the lead of George Allen, Kate Griffin and others and return to our roots as a party, then we will continue to have success for years to come.