October 28, 2010 [LINK / comment]

Can Obama save Perriello?

The President of the United States, Barack Obama, is coming to central Virginia tomorrow evening, in a last-minute bid to save incumbent Rep. Tom Perriello from defeat. The President will speak at a Democratic rally to be held at the Pavilion on the east side of downtown Charlottesville. The city is abuzz with frantic preparations, with Secret Service agents taking security precautions and police making arrangements for traffic. (See the Charlottesville Daily Progress.)

Most of the polls indicate that State Sen. Robert Hurt has a lead of several percentage points. (According to surveyusa.com, as of Wednesday, it's Hurt 51%, Perriello 43%.) So why would the Prez take time out of his busy schedule on behalf of one humble freshman congressman with shaky prospects for reelection? Partly because Perriello is among those who were first elected in 2008, being swept into office on Obama's coat-tails, and partly because he has stuck to his guns and refused to apologize for supporting the Obama-Pelosi agenda, which is not exactly popular in most of the Fifth Congressional District, which he represents. Successful politicians never fail to reward such gestures of loyalty, so Obama will probably look good even if Perriello loses next Tuesday. Being practical, Perriello has not exactly boasted of his close allegiance to the President, but at this stage of the game, he needs all the help he can get. He needs to "energize the base," meaning all those students at U.Va. Obama will be visiting other states with close House races over the weekend.

Democrats have pulled out all the stops in a end-game media blitz for Perriello. Yesterday he appeared on the Comedy Channel's Colbert Report, right after the President was a guest of Jon Stewart Daily Show. (Stewart and Colbert will be leading a mock-serious "rally to restore sanity and/or fear" in Washington.) Today Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack traveled with Perriello through the Fifth District, touting all of the wonderful (?) things brought about by the stimulus bill. See the Lynchburg News & Advance. This came a day after Hurt and Perriello debated each other at Randolph College, in Lynchburg. See the News & Advance.

Last week, the two candidates engaged in a heated debate in Danville, sponsored by U.Va.'s Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership. Hurt went after Perriello on the Card Check issue (a top priority of organized labor) and Obama's stimulus, and the incumbent responded, oddly, by criticizing Hurt for his support for tax hikes. Evidently it's a clever way to undermine support for Hurt among anti-tax conservatives. See the Daily Progress, which includes a video clip.

Hurt caught some flak for refusing to participate in any debate including a third party candidate, Jeff Clark. His Web site is self-explanatory: crashtheirparty.org. He identifies himself as "a social and fiscal conservative who believes that fundamental reform is needed in our political system." (Could he be a Tea Partier?) He has about 2% support in the poll cited above.

It is important to note that in the Fifth Congressional District race, the Republican candidate (Hurt) is not a creature of the Tea Party movement, some of whose leaders openly despise him. (Hurt prevailed in a wide-open multi-candidate Republican primary last summer, and has had to build bridges to the losing factions.) According to the same essay I cited yesterday (virginiafifthwatchdog.com), the nomination of Hurt was

brought about at least in part by a push from the same damned GOP establishment that ushered in the era of Obama

That is an extraordinarily creepy and deranged point of view, but I'm afraid it is characteristic of a significant portion of the Tea Party crowd.

Griffith narrows the gap

Elsewhere in Virginia, the latest polls show that Del. Morgan Griffith (R) is edging closer to incumbent Rep. Rick Boucher (D) in the Ninth District race. According to surveyusa.com, Griffith is at 47%, while Boucher is at 46%, i.e., it's too close to call. Until recently, Boucher had enjoyed a substantial lead in most polls.