TO UTTERLY NO surprise and presumably great delight among the tried, true and traditional voters of Virginia, the 1981 campaign for governor is falling into place -- which, for those of you with political charts, is about two degrees off center and heading right. With Lt. Gov. Charles S. Robb already the official Democratic nominee and Attorney General J. Marshall Coleman waiting for the official Republican nod this weekend, it's post time in the Old Dominion, to the strains of "Nearer My Godwin to Thee."
From now until November, the challenge for voters will be to find and describe the significant political difference between the two when it comes to taking stands, except for an 84-page, double-spaced difference between Mr. Robb's 50 single-spaced pages of economic position paper and Mr. Coleman's 16, double-spaced.
But what about substance? Both candidates endorse -- try to bear with us -- tourism; improved transportation; coal as a primary energy source; help for farmers; a deeper harbor at Hampton Roads; less government regulation; retention of the so-called right-to-work law; elimination of collective bargaining by public employees; a decrease in youth unemployment; and expansion of foreign trade; and, for all we know. Metro, motherhood and peace in our time.
In keeping with this bipartisan mix-or-match lineup, the Democrats are fielding former Portsmouth mayor Richard J. Davis for lieutenant governor and Richmond lawyer Gerald L. Baliles for attorney general. Though this ticket didn't exactly overwhelm those convention delegates who described themselves as "liberals," it is a staid fact that "liberals" haven't overwhelmed a statewide thing in decades, anyway. That is why the smart Democratic money is where it is this year -- and why the outcome may be far less predictable than the campaign statements of the candidates up to now.