An opening for Denneny?
Despite the attention the oncoming Byrne-Connolly slugfest is already receiving, and despite the natural tendency to view an election as a two-person contest, I think Doug Denneny has a real chance to be competitive in this primary. A bloody battle between two politicians with potentially high negatives (the first swings were taken just this week) drives down enthusiasm for both candidates. In a two-man race, this works because the last one standing wins.
But Denneny’s presence changes things, more so than other “also-rans” usually do (sorry, Lori Alexander). For starters, he’s been in the race since last July and has had plenty of time to curry favor with grassroots supporters. Second, his military background and lack of political experience can seem a very appealing choice to primary voters who are turned off by a dirty primary (see Denneny’s response to the recent dust-up here). Finally, he’s touting some endorsements that aren’t easy to shrug off.
Rep. Tim Murphy (D-PA) is the only Iraq War veteran in Congress, and while a freshman rep from PA doesn’t have a terrible amount of impact in a Virginia primary, his endorsement is still support from a notable political figure. Second, Denneny was also endorsed by VoteVets.org, who spent close to $2 million on TV ads in Congressional races in 2006, and have since increased their membership and fundraising. With Connolly and Byrne so far underperforming financially, a cash infusion from a third-party group could change the entire dynamics of the race.
It would take a series of events in order for Denneny to actually win the nomination, but so far there’s no indication that he will simply fade into the background. Advisors to Connolly and Byrne would do themselves well to keep an eye out over their shoulder as they continue to slug each other. As for Republicans, facing a neophyte with little name recognition would be a boon, since Keith Fimian is in roughly the same position. Then again, if Denneny has the political skills to win a come-from-behind three-way primary, maybe he’d be a lot more dangerous in the general than anyone thinks.