By Carten Cordell Watchdog.org Virginia Bureau
ALEXANDRIA—Virginia’s voters will pick their Republican U.S. Senate nominee Tuesday from a four-candidate slate, but by most accounts, it’s George Allen’s race to lose.
While the former senator and governor has name recognition and money on his side, candidates who were supposed to be safe in 2012 have found themselves anything but.
U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Indiana, who had served in the Senate for 36 years, found his re-election plans in tatters when Indiana State Treasurer Richard Mourdock smoked the incumbent in the primary by winning 61 percent of the vote.
U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah also has been in Washington, D.C., for more than 35 years, but he will face a primary challenge from former state Sen. Dan Lijienquist on June 26.
Credentials in Washington aren’t necessarily an asset for politicians this year, and while he has been favored to take on former Gov. Tim Kaine, a Democrat, in November as the GOP nominee, Allen has to tangle with three other candidates to get there.
“I would be so surprised that I would probably quit the business if George Allen lost Tuesday,” said Quentin Kidd, director of the Judy Ford Watson Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University in Newport News. “Every poll I have seen or heard about shows Allen way up.”
A June 5 Rasmussen poll of 500 likely Virginia voters evaluating all the Senate candidates, including Kaine, showed Allen up 44 percent over his Republican rivals, who collectively had 3 percent. Kaine, who is running unopposed on the Democratic side, grabbed 46 percent, while 6 percent of those surveyed said they were unsure. The poll, which was conducted on June 3, had a 4.5-percent margin of error.
“With the Lugar upset and the challenge to Orrin Hatch, you saw the strength of those challengers in the polling,” Kidd said. “In Richard Lugar’s case, his opponent wasn’t polling ahead of him, but he was polling right there with him. You just don’t see anything like that here.”
Among the other candidates, Jamie Radtke has tea party support, and, along with Marshall, may have the name recognition around the state to challenge Allen.
Kurt Feigel, president of the Lynchburg Tea Party, said Radtke has the network to make it a race, but Allen’s political connections may be too much to overcome.
“She has the money and activist network to pull it off,” Feigel said in an email. “No doubt an uphill battle going up against George Allen’s team of history revisionists that love to tout his record as governor but completely ignore his spend happy absurdity in D.C. during his time as Senator.”
David Henderson, chairman of the Warren County Republican Party, said there are marked differences between the Virginia race and the challenges in Indiana and Utah, and they all favor Allen.
“The Richard Lugar thing was a real slap at him because he kind of moved out of state, so to speak,” he said. “George Allen has a long history and a long family background in Virginia, so I don’t see a lot of parallel there. Jamie Radtke has done a nice job, but I don’t think she has the name recognition. When I walk around the county and mention people’s names, they all know George Allen, but nobody knows Jamie Radtke.”
With many pundits saying the nomination is a lock for Allen, the speculation becomes not whether the other candidates can beat him, but can they hurt him for November.
“I think the real question is how well does George Allen perform tomorrow,” Kidd said. “If he wins with 60 percent of the vote, I think that is bad news for him. But if he really blows it out of the water, 80 or 85 percent of the vote, then I think he demonstrates the sort of strength of his support within the Republican primary electorate.
“He really needs, I think, to win strong in order to come out of the primary with some sort of energy behind him.”