Why a primary over a convention?

By VA Blogger

There are several reasons. First and foremost, a primary encourages the party to seek out beyond it’s narrow parameters and get more people involved. The bigger our party, the bigger our mandate. The smaller our party, the bigger the Democrat’s mandate. We cannot win on the strength of hardcore conservatives alone, and excluding everybody but from the process gives the Democrats a head start.

Second, running a statewide campaign is more difficult than it sounds, and folks like Ken Cuccinelli, John Brownlee, and Dave Foster would do themselves well for a “pre-season”, if you will, of running a full statewide campaign with a full statewide vote before going into the general election. Preparing the organization now for a statewide primary means that you will already have a well-oiled machine in place if you’re the eventual nominee.

Third, it gives you credibility in the general. Rather than being the best at making backroom deals and securing the votes of insiders, you secure the vote of real voters, people who may have never heard of you before, and people who will be voting in November.

Fourth, a convention does not, as some believe, ensure that conservatives are able to choose the best nominee. Take this year for example, when we had a choice between Jim “pro-choice for the first eight weeks” Gilmore and Bob “protectionist” Marshall. And for the bevy of Marshall supporters that I know read this blog, let me assure you that Marshall would have equally stood no chance against Mark Warner as Jim Gilmore currently does.

I’ve never heard of Tim Boyer before, but I have heard the rumors of a McDonnell/Cuccinelli rift before. Frankly, I don’t buy the reasons. I don’t buy that Jim Gilmore was such a protected icon within the party establishment that McDonnell would exact vengence for those supporting Marshall. And speaking as a Ken Cuccinelli supporter, I would much rather Ken win the nomination by primary (something I believe he would have no problem doing). But no matter who you support (and I know the conservative blogosphere is divided), I hope everyone can agree that primaries are much more healthy for our party than conventions.


Comments

  • t says:

    Congratulations to the Angels for winning the World Series on Wednesday.

    Looking at the over-the-top champagne-soaked celebration, it sure looked that way.

  • t says:

    So Shaq has announced he is retiring after two more seasons? Funny, but I thought he retired two seasons ago.

  • Anon says:

    You are absolutely right. Conventions are exclusionary and elitist. You have to have the money to participate. I know that you don’t have to vote, but you have to have the time and means to travel to the convention.

    The other advantage that primaries have over conventions is the fact that once you convince a voter to vote for you in the primary, you are all but guaranteed their vote in November.

  • James Young says:

    “I hope everyone can agree that primaries are much more healthy for our party than conventions.”

    Yeah. And the lion will lie down with the lamb.

    I don’t think anyone will dispute that conventions and primaries both have their advantages and disadvantages, and that reasonable people of good will can disagree over the relative utility and efficacy of each.

    You choose to believe that “a primary encourages the party to seek out beyond it’s narrow parameters and get more people involved,” implying that “a convention is narrow and gets only party activists involved.” I choose to believe that a primary encourages the participation of the casual and uninformed voters, and produces nominees who paint in pale pastels, as opposed to nominees who provide sharp distinctions and genuine alternatives. There is certainly evidence for both views. George Allen was chosen as nominee for Governor in a huge convention, and won with a huge majority. Narrowing? The evidence belies your contention. You appear to reject the notion of “statecraft as soulcraft,” to borrow the title of one of George Will’s collections, and the value of civic education in providing nominees who speak truth to power. You utterly ignore the fact that, in Virginia, people can participate in primaries without any connection to the party save for the day they vote, and perhaps not even then. The organizational advantages you suggest in a primary over a convention are almost certainly wrong, since a statewide convention brings together a large group of activists committing their time and their treasure, people who will almost certainly be active campaign workers for the nominee. You cast the convention process in as negative terms as possible, terms which are more caricature than based in actual evidence.

    And yes, “Conventions are exclusionary and elitist.” Conventions exclude those who are not genuine Republicans, those who self-exclude because they are not committed to the GOP and its principles. They are certainly elitist, insofar as they require the active participation of those who are genuinely committed to the GOP and its principles.

    One more thing, with rare qualifications: primaries produce milquetoasts; conventions produce leaders.

  • Great points on this, Va…I’m sorry that as a Cucinelli supporter, you have not seen the error of your ways, however. :)

  • NovaConservative says:

    Agreed. At least after last year’s debacle in Loudoun, they can’t keep telling us that “conventions produce winning candidates in the fall.” Not so much.

    I wish we had party registration, but we don’t. Nevertheless, conventions simply exclue way too many people and I’d rather err on the side of including too many people than excluding them. Lets face it, most normal people can’t give up two days to go all the way down to Richmond just to vote. If you’re worried that your candidate is going to fall victim to people that “shouldn’t” be voting, than just make damn sure to get your people out to vote for him.

  • I think Bob McDonnell wants a primary because he’s scared Bob Marshall may run for Governor, as has been rumored.

  • VA Blogger says:

    I highly doubt Marshall does that. He couldn’t even beat Gilmore, who is barely supported by the party. How is he going to beat McDonnell?

    Furthermore, a major point of Marshall, and especially his supporters, was that Gilmore is pro-choice. What’s their complaint with McDonnell?

  • VA Blogger says:

    James:

    “I choose to believe that a primary encourages the participation of the casual and uninformed voters”

    Also known as the voters we need in the fall. Getting uninformed voters to vote in a primary is excellent practice for this.

    “produces nominees who paint in pale pastels, as opposed to nominees who provide sharp distinctions and genuine alternatives.”

    This depends entirely on the candidates running, and not the format they’re running in. We both can list examples of primaries and conventions who have done both.

    “You utterly ignore the fact that, in Virginia, people can participate in primaries without any connection to the party save for the day they vote, and perhaps not even then.”

    I didn’t ignore it, as if I wasn’t aware of it. I just don’t care. Crossover voting happens, but not enough to affect the outcome of the election. Do you believe, as Tim Boyer does, that a primary “allows liberals to choose our nominee”?

    “The organizational advantages you suggest in a primary over a convention are almost certainly wrong, since a statewide convention brings together a large group of activists committing their time and their treasure, people who will almost certainly be active campaign workers for the nominee.”

    Great. You get a handful of campaign workers. I would *hope* that the people willing to go down to Richmond would be willing to be campaign workers even if there wasn’t a convention. However, it by no means sets up an organization at all useful for a general election, as you’re targetting a microscopic fraction of the voters, and you’re only going after the most active Republicans, who have to sign up to participate anyways. So much for an organzation to reach voters.

    “Conventions exclude those who are not genuine Republicans, those who self-exclude because they are not committed to the GOP and its principles.”

    Tell me which one of these principles the GOP is committed to: abortion in the first eight weeks or opposition to free trade? It’s not about the process, it’s about the candidates. A convention does NOT produce good candidates by virtue of being a convention, it simply gives a leg up for the most connected insider, and the rest of us can only hope that person is capable of winning a general election.

  • James Young says:

    You’re certainly entitled to your opinion, “VA Blogger,” but you’re not entitled to your own facts.

    As to your first point, you completely ignore the educational process of a campaign, which was the primary principle in support of my assertion. Perhaps promoting an ignorant electorate (or a continually ignorant electorate) is your desire; it’s not mine. Talk about “elitist”!

    Your second rejoinder is as elitist as your first. One of the disadvantages of a primary is that it promotes only the rich and party insiders who are established. A convention permits the participation of competent insurgent candidates who, while they might not have a great deal of money at the outset, can build a campaign from the ground up with a set of good ideas.

    And yes, I believe that it does. There can be little doubt that our 1996 Senate nominee was chosen by Liberals, not the party faithful. John Warner didn’t even have the courage to show his face in the Salem Convention Center.

    “a handful of campaign workers”!?!?! Have you ever heard of the Great Indoor Primary of 1978? The even larger convention in 1993? Without discussing the relative merits of a primary, you make assertions about the results of convention participation which reflect a studied ignorance of the facts.

    Such as your assertion that “[a] convention does NOT produce good candidates by virtue of being a convention, it simply gives a leg up for the most connected insider.” Really? I doubt that George Allen would agree with that. Wasn’t one of his complaints about Party Chairman Pat McSweeney that he supported Earle Williams in the convention (an assertion I believe to have been a lie, BTW)? Wasn’t George Allen a fantastic candidate in 1993? He WON, didn’t he?

    As to your third point, that was a list, not necessarily exhaustive nor all-inclusive, and I was referring to the participants, not the candidates. Can there be any doubt that Tom Davis is kicking himself by not participating in the convention, for example? Bob Marshall was outspent by orders of magnitude, and nearly knocked off a former Governor (I voted for Marshall, but would have been happy with either, as I have said previously).

    I am perfectly willing to debate the relative merits and demerits of conventions vs. primaries, but as long as you base your argument on demonstrably false assertions and self-serving caricatures, it’s difficult to ascertain what the point would be.

  • Chris Beer says:

    If McCain wins Virginia and say Fimian squeaks out a win over Connolly, a possibility with new polling out that has the generic R within the margin of error of the generic D, and Jim Gilmore loses – this entire party should be ashamed of themselves for not working harder for Gilmore. I have yet to hear one good reason from the Tom Davis-loving NOVA moderates other than bitterness. Get over yourself. Whether you like it or not, Gilmore is our guy and if this party keeps turning its back on him the Dems in the Senate are one more vote closer to 60. I hope you will all be proud of yourself if that happens.

  • NovaConservative says:

    Oh please. Give me a break.

    Jim Gilmore hasn’t EARNED it. Go out and down what every other relevent candidate does and raise a few million dollars. If you can’t do that, don’t run for the Senate, period.

    Keith Fimian is not going to win, but at least he brought resources to the table.

    Politics is a zero-sum game. There’s only so many dollars and resources out there other than what you create for yourself. It makes sense to focus them on where they can do the most good, which is why the NRSC won’t even touch this race and why activists in this state are focusing their efforts on behalf of the McCalin-Palin team.

    And I’m not a Tom Davis loving moderate.

  • Bwana says:

    I posted the following in November 2005:

    http://renaissanceruminations.wordpress.com/2005/11/15/conventions-panaceas-not-perfection/

    I have not seen a lot since then to make me change my opinion…

  • VA Blogger says:

    Chris, with all due respect, there is a world of difference between the respective campaigns of John McCain, Keith Fimian, and Jim Gilmore.

    Just off the top of my head, I know which ones can afford ads for their races, and which ones need the state party to fork over half of their coffers for an ad that won’t make a dent.

    Everyone with an iota of political understanding knew that Jim Gilmore’s candidacy would be a disaster and would lead to a certain Mark Warner victory. Gilmore and his allies in the party went for it anyways and now we’re stuck with looking towards 2012 for a viable chance to reclaim a Senate seat. In the meantime, just because he’s surrounded by candidates far more talented than he is doesn’t mean that the same effort will get him elected. The only way we’ll be referring to Senator Gilmore in four months is if Mark Warner makes a career-ending mistake.

  • t says:

    Mark Warner’s HORRIFIC speech at the convention should knock him down a few points.

    Bob Marshall is our BEST candidate for Governor.

  • Lauren Yoder says:

    I agree with Va Blogger, the selection of Gilmore sealed the deal for Warner. I wouldn’t dream of having a Gilmore sign or bumper sticker. The neighbors would think I’ve lost my mind. I can’t believe there were so many stupid people who would show up and vote for him in Richmond. Anyone with any sense could have seen this big time defeat coming. Gilmore has managed to get 2/3 of the state to think he is a idiot and so as a reward we allow him to run for senate.

  • Gnarly says:

    Everybody forgets…the conservative candidate still wins in a Primary (if he has an organization). With conventions, some think that it is a shoo-in for the most conservative candidate…but starnge things can happen in a small convention. So I say to Cooch and everytbody else who are hell bent on conventions,,,,be careful what you wish for.

  • NovaConservative says:

    Honestly, if I was the McCain campaign, I’d send a cease and desist letter to Jim Gilmore every time I saw a McCain signed attached to a Gilmore one (which I’ve seen more than a few of).

    All that does is hurt McCain.

  • Gilmore deparately needs to attach himself to McCain. McCain desparately needs to stay away from Gilmore.

    NovaCon, this is one topic we fully agree on.

  • G. Stone says:

    Mark Warner’s HORRIFIC speech at the convention should knock him down a few points.

    Bob Marshall is our BEST candidate for Governor.
    - t

    Warner is a bore fest. His own family fell asleep during that speech. It was typical Warner monotone wonkery at its best. I would rather watch snails mate that listen to this guy.
    He makes Lieberman look exciting.

  • GOP base says:

    James, while I fully understand why you would want only solid republicans to participate in the nomination process you forget an important fact. The military is a huge part of our base especially in Virginia. Conventions stop this important part of our party from voting since there are no absentee ballots.

  • And for the record, I am FOR primaries. Up here in Northern Virginia, there are MANY “good Republicans” who can’t attend conventions because of the Hatch Act or military obligations. I know of one person in particular who this happened too. The distance and cost of many to get down to Richmond is sometimes too much for some people who are great Republicans. Its being perhaps a bit selective of the term “good Republicans” to define it by those who go to conventions.

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