Miller Is a High-Contrast Candidate for Senate

By Marc Fisher
Tuesday, May 30, 2006

There are three kinds of Democrats remaining in this Republican-dominated land of ours:

One kind believes the Democratic Party lost a large portion of its support and a significant slice of its soul to Ronald Reagan and will never again be a majority party unless it lures back those folks who grew up admiring FDR and JFK but migrated to Reagan.

The second variety of Democrat believes Reagan was the anti-Christ but would never say that in public. They talk about rekindling their party's connection to middle America, but they say this with so little conviction that no one pays them any mind.

The third kind of Democrat is still horrified by the concept of Reagan -- and says so. This set of politicians is generally assumed to be the suicidal wing of the Democratic Party.

Two weeks from today, Virginians will decide which type of Democrat will take on Sen. George Allen, who, in the mysterious ways of the conventional wisdom, has gone from strong presidential prospect to vulnerable first-term senator in a matter of days.

Dragged down by unfathomable gas prices, an unpopular president and a seemingly unwinnable war, Allen suddenly finds himself having to fight for reelection. On June 13, Virginians will choose between examples of the two more interesting categories of Democrats -- former Reagan man Jim Webb and a rare, overt anti-Reaganite, Harris Miller.

No mealy-mouthed weasels in this race: Webb, Reagan's Navy secretary, is a convert, turned against the party he long served by his belief that our Iraq policy is deeply, dangerously wrong. Miller, a Washington lobbyist who has long been active in Fairfax County's Democratic Party, is an increasingly endangered animal, an out lib.

Miller is a Republican strategist's dream opponent. He's as charismatic as a toaster, wonkier than Al Gore and as proudly liberal as Al Franken. And at just about the worst time ever to be one, he's a lobbyist . He's a total contrast to Allen; no cowboy boots or chewing tobacco here. If Allen preaches the virtues of "Virginia values," Miller stands up for the mores of the state's burgeoning metropolitan areas.

"I haven't compromised my positions for the primary," Miller says. "I've always been pro-choice." To Miller, the Reagan era does not represent "golden years" to most Democrats. He cites as examples of misguided policies the fight against Roe v. Wade , supply-side economics and Reagan's busting the air traffic controllers union.

Depicted by his opponent as the oracle of outsourcing, Miller makes no apologies for his pro-globalization position, arguing that with the right investments in education and training, rural Virginia can win jobs that now go to Bangalore.

"I haven't been handled" by consultants, Miller says, and he's happy to defend his work as a lobbyist pushing to spread broadband technology throughout the country.

A roly-poly, friendly guy with curly hair and rimless glasses, Miller can seem frenetic, making points with his hands even as he dumps four creams in his coffee, gobbles a cookie and answers his BlackBerry almost simultaneously.

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