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GOP candidates press Perriello – and each other

Story by Chris Graham

Fifth District Congressman Tom Perriello is facing a full-court press from the Republicans gunning for the chance to knock him off in November. The press might work better if the GOP’ers weren’t trying at the same time to steal the ball from each other.

“My opponent Jim McKelvey put out a statement challenging Congressman Perriello to ‘go ahead and make my day’ by voting for the pending health-care bill. This is exactly the type of arrogant thought process the people of Virginia’s Fifth Congressional District and the country cannot afford to tolerate any longer.”

This was from Laurence Verga, who called the one-line statement from McKelvey to Perriello on the upcoming vote in the House on health-care reform, in which McKelvey referenced the line made famous in Clint Eastwood’s “Dirty Harry” movies, “petty politics.”

“We need candidates and representatives who will take their jobs seriously and put an end to politics as usual,” Verga said.

Feda Morton couldn’t resist staying out of the fracas over the “make my day” comment. Neither did she feel compelled to pull back from invoking the Democratic boogeymen that are House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and President Barack Obama in her message to voters.

“Voters must remind Tom Perriello that if he votes in favor of Obamacare, it will undoubtedly be his political ruin in November as voters from across the district hold him accountable for his lack of representation,” Morton said.

Whether or not that is the case – that voters will necessarily lead a revolt against Democrats at the polls in November if they move to pass substantive health-care reform – remains a question. A new poll released this week by Public Policy Polling has some indication of momentum in favor of reform. The March PPP poll on health-care reform still has a plurality of voters, 49 percent, expressing disapproval of the plan currently being debated in Congress, but the number supporting the reform effort has gone from 39 percent in a February poll to 45 percent in March.

The bigger issue for Democrats seeking re-election in the fall is the support at the party base. Last month’s PPP poll had support among liberals for the plan before Congress at 73 percent, with 19 percent opposed, with the opposition rooted in disapproval of the direction of the bill, which critics in liberal circles had been feeling as being so severely watered down as to be ineffectual. The attitude toward the bill among liberals seems to be shifting and shifting dramatically, with 89 percent of liberals in the PPP poll saying they support the plan, with just 3 percent opposed.

But Republican voters remain steadfastly opposed to the proposed reforms, and statements like “make my day” and references to “Obamacare” are red meat to a Republican primary electorate.

“Tom Perriello has let us down,” said State Sen. Robert Hurt, who is considered the frontrunner in the Fifth District GOP primary, adding his two cents in. “His voting record doesn’t match the values we share. The Fifth Congressional District faces record unemployment and instead of fighting to create jobs, Congressman Perriello has voted in favor of Obama’s failed stimulus plan, cap and trade and the Democrats’ job-killing takeover of our health-care system.”

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