For those of us who view politics as a spectator sport, the Republican Advance, which begins Friday, is looking to be the best bet for a weekend ticket. If nothing else, it should offer a pretty good look at just how well Jim Gilmore and the state GOP are getting along as they head toward next year's Senate race.
Gilmore, the former governor and presidential candidate, became the leading GOP candidate to replace John Warner back in October, when U.S. Rep. Tom Davis announced that he wouldn't run. (Gilmore's front-runner position was solidified when the party decided to choose its nominee at a convention instead of during a primary election.)
Gilmore is trying to claim some ownership of the Advance, it seems -- yesterday, "Jim Gilmore and his campaign" posted an invitation to "all Republicans" to come to the Advance.
Mason Conservative went to bat for Gilmore yesterday, with a post that says "Gilmore's Biggest Hurdle" will be the media, and specifically the Washington Post. MC makes several good points, but neatly overlooks the divide in the GOP that can be traced directly to battles over Gilmore's attempts to eliminate the car tax.
It was members of his own party who, during the 2001 General Assembly session, tried to put the brakes on the car-tax phase-out because of declining state revenue. Gilmore would have none of it and the battle grew increasingly heated.
State Sen. Tommy Norment of James City County was one of the Republicans leading the anti-Gilmore battle. In April 2001, in an interview with the Daily Press, Norment talked about Gilmore's "arrogance of power" and his unwillingness to compromise.
"The arrogance was only reinforced ... by his complete inalterable unwillingness to discuss anything other than that which he said, because he is the governor," Norment said. "Well, I don't buy that. That's why Virtue is standing on the chest of Tyranny on the Virginia seal designed by George Wythe.
"George Wythe knew something about tyranny. And he knew that that was not something that we were going to tolerate in Virginia. We have a governor. We don't have King James III. We are partners in governance. We are partners in this thing. We're not subjects."
Norment went on to make a prediction for how Gilmore's term as chairman of the Republican National Committee would turn out.
"If this is his demonstration of leadership in Virginia, then Republicans nationwide should be very concerned that that same style in arrogance of power is going to be reflected on a national level, which could be catastrophic," Norment said.
Gilmore served one year as chairman of the RNC. He resigned the seat in December 2001, just before that year's Republican Advance, saying he wanted to spend more time with his family, and denying rumors that he'd left because of friction with the White House.
Gilmore has yet to show that he can unite the state GOP. Most recently, state Del. Chris Saxman of Staunton has said that he may challenge Gilmore for the Senate nomination.
And a post at Too Conservative urges Republicans to give Saxman a chance. "At the end of the day, I still do not believe that Governor Gilmore can be elected to the Senate against Mark Warner," TC writes. Saxman, on the other hand, "is shrewd, likable, and can serve as a much needed new face for the Virginia GOP.
"The Advance should provide a great opportunity for the party to begin taking his 'potential' candidacy seriously."
Like I said, it should be an interesting weekend.