Home Politicians Poll: George Allen’s Strength Is His Weakness

Poll: George Allen’s Strength Is His Weakness


By Paul Goldman

There are two ways to read the recent poll on the 2012 Republican Senate nomination, assuming you believe the Public Policy Polling survey is credible. (1) the poll shows George Allen to be the overwhelming favorite even when tested against potential heavyweight challengers. This seems to be the consensus view in VA politics from both left, right and in the middle.

Or: (2) he is vulnerable to a challenge from an unknown, new age conservative “young gun” in the today’s post-Bush Tea Partying GOP electorate. This possibility is being dismissed by the gurus of conventional wisdom.

“Your strength is your weakness” is the old Chinese proverb. In an all-comers match-up against Eric Cantor, Kenny Cuccinelli, Bill Bolling, Bob Marshall, et. al, George Allen leads the field with 46%, his closest pursuers being Eric and Kenny boy in the middle-teens respectively, all the others in low, single digits. The former Governor and Senator’s years of being a top player has made him, as RTD columnist Jeff Schapiro astutely noted, the Establishment Conservative favorite, quite ironical for the guy who came to statewide attention as the anti-establishment rebel challenging Democratic Governors.


This big lead led PPP to find the son of legendary NFL Coach George Allen Sr. to be the overwhelming favorite for the nomination, indeed the polling outfit suggested Allen was so far ahead, why not just anoint him right now?  

My reaction: The reason for actually letting voters decide is admittedly quaint but sensible. Mr. Allen only got 46%, which is less than 50% and thus roughly half of those sampled presumably are open to at least considering a conservative “young gun”, should he or she emerge as a credible challenger in a head-to-head challenge.  

PPP totally dismissed the roughly 1/3 of their sample who voted for either Eric or Kenny boy since those guys aren’t running. But of all the stats in their poll, this one is the most important. Neither of them has the statewide profile of Mr. Allen, nor has ever been mentioned before as a serious Senate wannabe. In polling terms, they are stand-ins for a generic “young” gun who in theory had reached their level of political profile within the GOP electorate. Thus, given that analysis, Allen only lead by a 46-34 margin. Why is this important?

If PPP had published a poll with George Allen vs Sarah Paulson [my mythical hot shot businesswoman from Roanoke County, a youngish 42 with solid new age conservative street cred in the GOP] showing the former Governor and Senator up only 46-34 on this new “young gun” unknown, it would have sent political shock waves across the state. .

A poll taken today is basically an ID contest. Allen, once the rebel, is the stand in for the Old Establishment Face of GOP conservatism. In 2012, it is a safe bet that George Allen will be the only non-incumbent running in the GOP primary having supported the full Monte of the George Bush Economic Plan, not just the tax cuts but also all the budget deficits, debt increases, earmarks, huge government spending, on and on. Moreover, his position on the abortion issue among other social issues leaves room for a challenger to get to his right.

Having worked with him to in trying to help pass the Webb-Warner education bill that would save Virginian’s billions while fixing up so many of  the incredible number of outmoded school facilities in our state, I have seen Allen in his element as a retail campaigner. He genuinely likes people and it shows.

He is a good politician in that regard, and someone who understands the give and take of the Senate. But his strong suit isn’t the kind of razor-blade politics that dominate today. Allen was conservative, even very conservative while in office, but he wasn’t an anti-establishment conservative as a U.S. Senator  because the GOP controlled the Congress and the Presidency.

Bottom line: As a Senator, George Allen voted for a lot of things that can not be defended to the swing voters in a GOP primary in the Tea Party era. Moreover, with the 2012 GOP Senate primary slated to happen a few months after the 2012 GOP presidential primary, this means the conservative base will have been juiced up by what is going to be  a race to the right by all the Republican presidential contenders.

Thus, the table is going to be set for a new, dynamic, take-no-prisoners “young gun” to come out six-shooters blazing, running hard to George’s right, with a list of all the possible primary voters fresh in hand thanks to the presidential contest. It will not take a lot of money to be a force, just the willingness to run to George’s right and the ability to achieve a certain level of credibility. Once an underdog challenger gets past that marker, he or she will be a free media magnet, and the digital space will be a buzz.

So let’s recap.

George’s big advantage right now is not the 46% poll  number but the fact neither of the  two biggest “young gun” threats, Eric and Kenny boy, are running. Delegate Bob Marshall, who almost pulled off a huge upset in the 2008 GOP Senate nomination battle, can talk the talk and walk the walk with social conservatives, but he has yet to demonstrate the ability to challenge Allen among economic conservatives who are going to be the key swing voters if the economy is still the big issue in 2012.  If there is a new Dick Obenshain out there, the legendary original VA “young gun” conservative, a brilliant guy who would have been the first GOP Senator had he not died in a plane crash after winning the party’s 1978 Senate nomination, then George Allen is going to have fight for the GOP nod.

Coach George Allen, Sr, as brilliant a defensive thinker as the game as had, would know this instinctively and be working on ways to make that hole in the line never came into play. But I don’t sense such a game plan from the actions of Team Allen right now.

  • Old Redneck

    And that’s my prediction.  Because we Democrats have no one to run against him who can counter their simple message:  Family, Faith, Flag.

    We’ll talk about “quantitative easing,” “diversity,” “green jobs” and all that other progressive shit that is vitally important but that does not touch voters’ souls.

    It’s not our candidates.  It’s (1) the fact that we allow them to frame the debate, (2) we talk in long analytic pieces, they speak in bumper-sticker phrases, and, (3) we aren’t going to change.

  • Old Redneck

    Let’s see how well your approach worked:

    — In Virginia:  McDonnell, Bolling, and Kookynelly won. –

    — Republicans destroyed us in the House.

    — Our majority in the Senate is not likely to stand after 2012.

    But, hey, what does an Old Redneck know about anything?  All I do is travel around four states and talk with people — REAL people, not NOVA and Charlottesville white-wine sippers — small business people, hunters, carpenters, church folks — you know, the people who vote.

  • vaambition

    I cannot begin to tell you how pissed I am that you are talking that Real People crap!  I am a churchgoer, I dont like wine…but my wife loves it…we live in the suburbs but we like NOVA and met in C’ville…you were doing fine when you were talking about Family Faith and Flag..but this Real People stuff is stupid…our challange is to remind Virginia that our issues from Gay rights to the Enviroment is about the values of Family Faith and Flag

  • Tom

    The way Old Redneck expresses his/her comments is the only “circumstantial” evidence I have that this person might be a GOP troll so If my guess is wrong, I apologize. Maybe this blogger might be willing to be willing to say if he/she is a Dem. party committee member – i.e., a member of a local magisterial and county/city committee. I’m assuming that he/she is NOT a member of a Congressional District Dem. committee simply because of the response to my question about whether his/her conclusion that Brian will be elected DPVA chair is based on direct contact with any Central Committee members indicated to me that this person is not a voting member or else he/she would know how at least 20 or more CC members intend to vote. And more importantly, any member of the Central Committee would know that these are not a bunch of sheep who just vote however they think the “party leadership” Old Guard wants them to vote. Except for folks like our current DPVA chair and a few of his hard-core followers, the majority of the CC votes according to what they think is in the best interest of the party. The only reason the re-elected Dickie Cranwell for a second term is that no one volunteered to run against him. Now that there are two candidates for chair, I would have to say there is a better than even chance that Prince Mark’s preference will carry no more weight than your or my preference.

    The bottom line is that there is actually no way to “fix” an election like this. No one can buy votes with promises of individual payback, and regardless of what anyone might think from reading this blog, the large majority of the Central Committee members do in fact read and think carefully about what is discussed here. I can’t count the number of times I have been (privately) called to task by one or more of my Gainesville or Prince William County Dem. Committee members or leaders when I have misstated something that I have reported from one of our meetings or other internal discussions, or misrepresented our position on an issue or a candidate. Our members and leaders really do track our BV discussions, listen to what we have to say and try to learn from our back-and-forth debates. And I am hopeful that regardless of who is elected chair (and I am close to concluding it will be Peter) on the 4th of Dec. The DPVA and many of the county and city chairs will have carefully consider what both Peter and Lowell, and all you good bloggers have offered as ideas on how to strengthen our party, as well as how to counter the troll comments with positive strategies.


  • Tom

    I was considering skipping the 4 Dec. Central Committee meeting because I’m not a voting member. But after writing what I just did, it occurred to me that it might be worth the trip just to listen to (and record on video) Brian’s and Peter’s candidate’s speeches. One thing that Brian will not be able to do is use negative attack lines like he did against Terry during the gubernatorial primary campaign, so he will have to come up with some positive reasons why he would be a better (part time) chair than Peter (a full-time chair). It will be very interesting to observe in person Brian’s response to the insistence that we need a full-time chair who is willing and able to devote the large majority of his time and energy to rebuilding the party, meeting directly with every one of the 134 City/County Dem. committees and recruiting candidates for every election (and trying to explain why as House Minority Caucus Leader Brian never recruited candidates for more than about 1/3 of the seats held by Republicans).

    My bet is that Brain will address neither his inability/unwillingness to commit to full-time service as chair nor his lack of interest in recruiting candidates to run against most incumbent Republicans. But if Brian can prove me wrong with a far better campaign speech than he ever made when he ran for the Dem. gubernatorial primary campaign, I’ll consider that to have been my time and money well spent just to hear what he has to say.

    On the other hand, even if Brian’s speech is just boring disorganized blah, blah, I fully expect Peter’s speech to be very inspiring and energizing so that in itself will make the trip worthwhile.