With 2 1/2 months to go in his race for the U.S. Senate, the campaign of Virginia Democrat Andrew P. Miller appears to be drifting aimlessly toward election day, his staff shaky from personnel turnovers, and his money in short supply.
While the state's aggressive young Republican Party has absorbed the shock of its nominee's death and replacement with minimal organizational changes, Miller's campaign has had three directors in as many months and is still looking for a finance chairman.
It has no finance committee, few obvious voices of unity from the party's liberal and conservative wings, and an out-of-state campaign staff largely ignorant of the factional migrations of the Virginia electorate.
"I'm at a disadvantage, said campaign director Allen Clobridge when asked the names of prominent conservatives who might be heading into the Miller camp. "I'm sure there must be some but I'm not from Virginia. I'm still learning the names."
Former governor Mills E. Godwin Jr., meanwhile, was reported solidly behind Republican nominee John Warner and ready to lead a financially powerful phalanx of conservative Democrats in the GOP campaign.
A staff member in Warner's campaign office confirmed reports that Godwin had held a "very cordial" meeting with Warner last week and would begin campaigning "extensively" for the former Navy secretary after Labor Day.
Several Democratic leaders say Miller's problems are more apparent than real and stem in part from explainable factors, including the candidate's preoccupation with the long and obviously terminal illness of his father, Col. Francis Pickens Miller, who died Aug. 4.
But other Democrats say part of the difficulty stems from Miller's last year loss to former Lieutenant Governor Henry E. Howell in the Democratic gubernatorial primary.
That loss, which many political experts blamed on a staff top-heavy with high-priced Virginia strategists and short on precinct organization, left many Democratic conservatives unhappy with how Miller had spent their money.
"There was just no way he could have lost to Henry," said one prominent Richmond Democrat. "But he did it, and he did it with my money. I'm going to give him some more because, frankly, the thought of (Republican nominee) John Warner makes me ill. But a lot of the boys on Main Street don't see it that way."
The boys on Main Street, Virginia's financial center in Richmond, were also worked early and hard this spring by the late Richard D. Obenshain, who over the past decade had motivated and directed the state Republican Party in his own conservative image.
Obenshain died Aug. 2 in a plane crash, but not before locking up behind his candicacy most of the state's big money conservatives, some of whom had backed Miller against Hoyell last year.
"Miller might have gotten to that money in June," said a Democratic lawyer from Northern Virginia. "They know Andy's no liberal and a lot of them like him. But he just let the campaign drift for a month, and by the time he work up, Godwin had been on the phone and locked up all the money for Obenshain."
There is still hope among the Democrats that some Obenshain campaign financiers may defect to Miller, but GOP strategists say that is unlikely to happen.
"IK KNOW OF ONLY ABOUT A DOZEN F Dick's people that have held back since Warner's nomination," one Warner staffer said. "They are going about 75 or 80 percent for him . . . And Godwin's presence is going to have tremendous effect. He is a signal to these people."
Clobridge said the Miller campaign still intends to raise and spend about $700,000 and has scheduled more than 20 fund-raisers in September and October to meet that goal.
Some Democrats, moreover, say Miller still has time to catch up. The staff situation has shakes down, they say, adding that Warner's nomination has left them with an opponent far more vulnerable than Obenshain and less known in the state, even to the Republicans working for him.
They point out that there are still nearly two weeks before Labor Day, traditional kickoff point for Virginia campaigns. Democratic campaigns in the past have appeared further along at this point they contend, only because they have usually emerged from the July primary with a working organization.
Other party members worry, however, that Miller this year may have the staff he needed last year and vice versa.
"Last year he was working with people from past campaigns," said one member of the Democratic state central committee, "and he lost, so he threw them out. But he overreacted." He threw out everybody who knew anything about the state, including people who had been with him nearly 10 years - really good people.
"This year he has a bunch of hired guns from the national committee. They're sharp kids but they don't know bears about Virginia and this is one politically weird state."
By now, the committee member said. Miller should be organizing old Byrd conservatives for his campaign, "sending smoke signals" that Miller "believes safely in the sound doctrine. He ought to be releasing those names."
Asked if he had any prominent conservative in mind as a campaign chairman. Clobridge, a veteran of campaigns in Ohio and New York state, said: "I don't know that we have plans to do that. I'm a technician. . . . I don't know that would be appropriate in this state."