Lost in the news today is a small item that looms large for Tuesday. John E. Gordon has switched political parties. He is one guy. But in the GOTV effort, he is a guy that signals a slippery slope for Republicans who have thrown in with some pretty petty "populists."
"It's not that I'm leaving the Republican Party; it's that the Republican Party left me ... me and many other moderates," Gordon said in his announcement. "It aspired to be a big-tent party; but now it is dominated and exclusive to the tea party and folks with a very conservative social agenda." - Richmond Times Dispatch
So while the Republicans have been pandering to the know-nothing wing for two decades, they have driven those broader minded, more representative of the American electorate, to the curb. Concurrently they have touted a "big tent" welcome mat in an effort to attract a broader base of, well, non-whites. But is it sincere? After expressing frustration that more minorities have not joined the cause during a Virginia Beach appearance last spring, George Allen brushed off an African American member of the audience who commented that he might be able to explain how to help. Allen simply deflected the offer by telling him that he was interested; "see me afterwards..." Not interested or competent enough to share an unscripted conversation publicly. No, that's way too dangerous terrain for George. And there is nothing to demonstrate that Allen or many other Republicans are interested in anything but the votes.
There have been a lot of reasons for Virginia Republicans to be embarrassed by their Party's social and economic agendas. But it may be the "our way or the highway" attitude the T Party clique has emboldened that has suppressed or dissuaded moderate Republican voters. Gordon expressed that T Party orthodoxy, "the position that you are either with me or you are against me," played a role in his decision to defiltrate the Republican Party. And that is key. This was no dramatic jump from one side to the other. A successful incumbent, he chose not to run for re-election as a Republican in 2011 because he was opposed by an extreme member of his own party. He ran as an Independent. Only this year has he declared a switch to Democrat. Identifying those kinds of transitions in polls and GOTV is almost impossible.
It is a wild card for GOTV. A lot of these Republicans, though remaining self-identified as Republicans, will not be motivated to vote for Romney. If they do, they may have seen through George Allen's simple minded façade. This is an odd situation. Only recently have these two really "teamed up" and in an unusual way, this may turn out bad for both Romney and Allen. If they are "gotten out" these may not be reliable Romney voters. And for Tim Kaine, it could deliver Republican crossover voters to the polls.
Lowell has consistently looked askance at and with appreciation toward Allen's strategy of tying Kaine to Obama. The Romney-Allen combination has to show a last ditch effort by Romney to scrounge up voters at the margin. It does little for Allen and indeed may help Democratic down ballot voters identify their man. These elections are impossible to call. That means that the Democratic GOTV effort is the essential piece. Unfortunately, the way this works, few of the John E. Gordons of Virginia will be on our rolls. If you know any, drive them to the polls.
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