Home Crabill: Lose-lose for the GOP

Crabill: Lose-lose for the GOP


Twenty-nine days. That’s how long it took Republican leaders and the three statewide campaigns to distance themselves from wingnut Northern Neck Republican House candidate Catherine Crabill, who has said in her campaign for the seat currently held by Democratic Del. Albert Pollard that the federal government might have played a role in the Oklahoma City bombing, saying at a campaign rally caught on camera and posted on YouTube that her supporters should resort “to the bullet box” if they’re not successful at the ballot box, and referring to the actions of President Obama and the Democratic Congress as “domestic terrorism.”

I understand the specifics of putting out a press release on a Friday afternoon in August – as the campaigns of GOP gubernatorial nominee Bob McDonnell and attorney-general nominee Ken Cuccinelli and Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling did yesterday. I don’t get the 29-day wait from the “bullet box” comments to surface to put the presser out. Nor do I get the wait in thinking about saying anything at all about Crabill considering how the statements have to be considered a risky proposition given the sentiments of the Republican Tea Party voter base.

“We do not condone or support the comments Catherine Crabill has made. That kind of talk has no place in civil political discourse. She has received no assistance from the state party, nor will she in the future,” Virginia Republican Party chair Pat Mullins said in a statement also released Friday afternoon, laying it down about as clearly as you can.

“It’s absolutely wrong for any candidate of any party to refer to the actions of the president of the United States and members of the United States Congress as ‘domestic terrorism,’ and to threaten to resort to violence if one fails to prevail in elections,” McDonnell campaign spokesman Tucker Martin said. “We disavow Catherine Crabill’s comments and know that they do not reflect the sentiments of Republicans across the Commonwealth of Virginia. Republicans, Democrats and Independents in Virginia have a history of civil discourse, and we will not campaign for or with Catherine Crabill.”

“Lt. Gov. Bolling disagrees strongly with Ms. Crabill’s comments and he rejects those comments in the strongest possible terms,” Bolling spokesman Matt Wells said. “Comments like these have no place in a political campaign. Ms. Crabill was clearly speaking for herself, not for Lieutenant Governor Bolling, any of our other statewide candidates, or the Republican Party of Virginia. We have no plans to campaign for or with Ms. Crabill.”

“Our campaign has no intention of campaigning with Catherine Crabill,” said Chris LaCivita on behalf of the Cuccinelli campaign. “Our campaign does not believe in using violence or threats of violence in a manner to entice people to vote.”

The citizen in me wants to pat Mullins and the McDonnell, Bolling and Cuccinelli campaigns on the back for doing the right thing. They are all right on – what Crabill has had to say has no place in civil political discourse. Neither does saying there are “death panels” and “vaccine teams” in the health-reform bill, of course, nor should it be considered civil or even discourse to organize people into disrupting town-hall meetings with verbal and physical intimidation and then claiming protection for the tactics in the name of political dissent. But that’s another story for another day.

The politico in me can’t get past the politics at play here. Namely, I can’t imagine that this is at all going to play well with the Tea Party set from which Crabill’s candidacy sprang. This is why the statements came down on a Friday afternoon. The hope is that nobody sees it on the TV news on a Friday night or over the weekend, and who reads a Saturday paper anymore?

My guess is that the Tea Partiers are going to get the news eventually. I give them credit for being as connected as anybody else in the political world, and perhaps the least forgiving of any subgroup in politics. They’re not going to like their leaders selling out a candidate who said what is on their minds about Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi and congressional Democrats taking the country in the wrong direction. And they’re really not going to like Republican candidates backing away from the notion that Republicans can’t use their guns to enact the kind of change they think we need in Washington.

I can say this much – the delay in distancing the party from Crabill is not going to make the Crabill issue go away. And the hotter the health-care debate gets, the more divisive this Crabill thing is going to be for Republicans – both internally within the GOP base and between the conservative and moderate wings of the party and the moderate independent voters Republicans need to win in November.

Call this one a lose-lose for the Virginia GOP.


– Column by Chris Graham



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