Arch-conservative Virginia Del. Bob Marshall’s plan to run for the U.S. Senate is certain to spice up an already interesting Republican primary field headed by George Allen, the former governor and U.S. senator who does not swing as far to the right as his new opponent from Prince William County.
At one level, it would be a tragedy if Marshall ever got to hold such a high position, because it would be a major blow to Virginia’s reputation for reasonableness.
Marshall has long been a lightning rod for everything from abortion issues to harassing academics who go against conservative dogma. Marshall has sparked controversy by his outrageous claim that babies born with defects to women who have had abortions are “nature’s vengeance” and “punishment.” There is some disagreement about the degree to which he actually linked infant deformity with abortions — he skates around that issue.
And Marshall can be counted on to work with other hard-right conservatives such as Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli in a one-two-punch fashion for over-the-top political offenses. For instance, when Cuccinelli had trouble forcing the University of Virginia to hand over hundreds of e-mails involving its former climatology professor Michael Mann, Marshall stepped in. Working with the American Traditions Institute, Marshall filed a Freedom of Information Act request to get some of the e-mails and further the witch hunt.
But a Democratic strategist for Tim Kaine, who is also running for the Senate, has outlined scenarios in which Marshall’s candidacy will force Allen into areas where he’d rather not go.
Mo Elleithee expects Allen to “pander” even more than he has to the Tea Party elements, although he has so far failed to capture their imagination. Indeed, Tea Party leader Jamie Radtke, also running for the Republican Senate nomination, has constantly attacked Allen for being part of the Washington Establishment that he is supposedly running against.
Elleithee believes that as Allen tries to run farther to the right to get around Marshall, he’ll alienate undecided independents, to Kaine’s benefit. He’ll also be forced to move into areas he’d rather not, such as his past views on immigration and abortion.
Whether Marshall’s entrance is a big help to Kaine, however, remains to be seen. After all, Marshall came close to getting the Republican nomination for Senate the last time he tried in 2008. Former governor Jim Gilmore beat Marshall by a mere one percentage point before being defeated in the general election by Democrat Mark Warner.