Patrick Ruffini has been conducting a poll of possible Republican Presidential candidates over the last few days and the results so far are, to me, more than a little surprising.
The leader as of today is Senator George Allen, Jr. of Virginia with 37.7% followed closely by Rudy Guiliani with 34.4% with Romney, Frist, and McCain trailing far behind.
Ruffini has gone further and broken down the results by blog links so that it’s possible to get a grasp of what types of conservatives support the frontrunners. For instance, Allen enjoys a 17 point edge from readers referred by Hugh Hewitt but trails Guiliani by more than 20 points among Instapundit’s referred readership. And readers who voted at Pat’s site give Allen a slight 8 point advantage.
What does it mean and does it really matter?
Of course, it doesn’t matter a whit. And trying to glean too much meaning from this kind of an on-line poll is a pretty useless exercise. But beyond the lack of utility in such polling, I found this kind of support for George Allen more than a little surprising.
I knew that Allen was head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee which under his leadership the party picked up 4 seats in this last election cycle. But as far as leadership in the Senate, he seemed to be pretty much in the background on most of the big issues, although I did see him on Hardball giving a spirited defense of the President’s energy policies.
In short, Senator Allen was something of a cipher to me. So, I decided to do a little research and try and judge what kind of a candidate he’d be in 2008 if he decided to run for President.
DOWN AND DIRTY BIO
Birth date: 03/08/1952
Birthplace: Whittier, CA
Home City: Mt. Vernon, VA
J.D., University of Virginia Law School, 1977
B.A., History, University of Virginia, 1974.
Member, United States Senate, 2000-present
Governor, Commonwealth of Virginia, 1994-1998
Member, United States House of Representatives, District 7, 1991-1993
Member, Virginia House of Delegates 1982-1991
Allen defeated two term incumbent Chuck Robb in 2000, no small feat but running behind President Bush considerably. Also, it can fairly be said that Virginia is now pretty much a reliable state for the GOP in federal elections with both Senators and 8 out of 11 Congressmen being Republican. That said, Allen may have a tough re-election fight on his hands if popular Democratic governor Mark Warner decides to run. Warner however, may have bigger fish to fry as he’s been mentioned as a possible Democratic presidential candidate in 2008 himself.
A breakdown of Allen’s 2000 support by county reveals some interesting tidbits. Virginia is pretty much divided into three major battlegrounds; northern Virginia which encompasses the Washington, D.C. suburbs, the coastal and river cities of Richmond, Norfolk, Newport News, Portsmouth, and Roanoke, and the rural interior that includes the Shenendoah Valley and a slice of Appalachia.
Allen did extremely well in the interior running up double digit margins of victory in the Valley as well as Appalachia in the southeast. He lost big to Robb in the liberal D.C. suburbs of Alexandria and Arlington, as well as getting slaughtered in Falls Church. What piqued my interest was how strong Robb ran in two Virginia counties that previously voted for Bill Clinton. Allen narrowly lost Fairfax county that borders liberal Arlington County and carried nearby Stafford County. Whether these results represent a general Republican trend in the state or whether Allen appeals to a certain kind of Clinton Democrat is unknown. But it is interesting.
In his two races for governor, he proved that he can both raise money run a campaign efficiently. His style, according to this article in Richmond.Com appears to be low key but effective.
I’ve seen a few of his floor speeches and he always impressed me as earnest but bland. Perhaps that’s why his present popularity surprises me a little.
This is where Senator Allen surprised me and where he might raise a few eyebrows on the Christian right if he runs.
I would characterize Senator Allen as a moderate conservative on social issues, a mainstream conservative on economic issues, and a hawk on foreign policy. In short, he’s no ideologue. Recently, he’s shown he can be a good partisan as he was one of the few Senators from either party to openly criticize Dick Durbin’s idiotic remarks comparing our servicemen to Pol Pot’s henchmen. And he’s emerged as a strong supporter of the President’s choice for UN Envoy John Bolton.
Whether he’s just now starting to feel comfortable in the Senate or whether he realizes he’s got to throw some red meat to the party faithful if he wants the nomination is hard to say. His interest group ratings reveal a mainstream Republican with some surprising positions on social issues.
For instance, on abortion, the Senator does not favor an outright ban on all abortions but would allow abortion to save the life or health of the mother, in cases of rape or incest, and in cases involving fetal deformity. This flies in the face of most of the Christian right groups who oppose abortion in all instances. It could be why he received only a grade of 67 with Dr. Dobbs Family Research Council. He did, however, receive a perfect 100% from Pat Robertson’s Christan Coalition.
He appears to be something of a federalist with regards to transferring welfare responsibilities to the states in the form of block grants. He has a mainstream Republican view of tax policy, opposing a flat tax while supporting elimination of the marriage penalty. He’s a free trader supporting NAFTA, GATT, and CAFTA. One thing that should please Glenn Reynolds is that he has a seat on the Congressional Nanotechnology Caucus. He opposes internet taxation and would seem to have a healthy interest in high tech issues of all kinds.
On immigration, he’s still something of a cipher. He gets a zero from both the liberal American Immigration Lawyers Association as well as the non-partisan Americans for Better Immigration. Since immigration could be the hot domestic issue of 2008, it should be interesting to see where he comes down on protecting our borders.
Interesting tidbit: He was an original co-sponsor with Mary Landrieu of the resolution apologizing for the government not doing anything about lynching for 100 years.
PLUSES AND MINUSES
On the plus side he’s young, attractive, from a southern state, not a fire eater, popular with his fellow Senators, appears to be capable of raising lots of money, and projects a moderately conservative image.
The biggest minus is that he’s an unknown quantity for both conservatives and the rest of the country. I’m also not enamored with his speaking style which at this point is conversational rather than inspiring. And he just hasn’t done enough to separate himself from the crowd. Also, he’s a sitting Senator which as we’ve seen, has historically been a detriment to running for President. In other words, he just hasn’t made a big impression on even a political junkie like me.
Since I think that the GOP’s best hope for ‘08 lies in nominating a southern or western conservative, Allen bears watching.