Tom Perriello gained a lot of credibility facing hostile crowds in discussing the health care plan last year without flinching.^My friend Tom Cain, a close political observer of a left-leaning persuasion, sends the following e-mail:
"Tea baggers are doing their part to keep Virginia’s Fifth District in Democratic hands. Politico reports that Tea Party activist Jeffrey Clark will run as an independent if moderate Republican Robert Hurt wins his party's nomination to take on Tom Perriello.
"How serious would a Clark candidacy be? When we polled the district in early February, we found that a generic Tea Party candidate would pull 19 percent. Perriello received 44 percent and Hurt 27 percent in such a scenario."
Reminds me of the Roanoke mayoral race a few years ago when far right Republican Ralph Smith challenged incumbent (and not especially popular) Mayor David Bowers and Republican/Democrat/Independent gadfly Mac McCadden. McCadden pulled enough of the African-American vote away from Bowers to split the Democratic preference and give Smith a landslide victory--with 34 percent of the vote. Bowers and McCadden each got a third.
Smith proved an embarrassment as mayor, then moved out of the city following his term, to Republican Botetourt County where, with the help of some of the party's extremists (think Morgan Griffith), he nipped moderate Republican Brandon Bell for the Virginia Senate in the primary, then squeezed by the Democrat in the general election. He has continued his habit of being an embarrassment, but without the split vote in Roanoke would likely have never have had a political career at all. "Landslide Ralph," they call him.
Perriello, on the other hand, is quite possibly the best congressman in the country, but he comes from a backward district that elected a rube year after year until Perriello jumped on George Bush's massive unpopularity and sneaked in.
So much of what happens with this country is based on luck and chance. Scary stuff.
(Christian Science Monitor photo.)