Sabato: Gilmore “a long shot” for ‘08
With former governor Mark Warner bowing out in October and Senator George Allen losing his seat in November, it seemed as though the 2008 presidential election would come and go without a Virginian joining the race. But as of today, Jim Gilmore is lacing up his running shoes. In a series of interviews with various Virginia newspapers yesterday, the former governor announced, "it is my intention to run [for president]," and that he will form an exploratory committee to investigate the feasibility of a campaign. "A void exists," he told the Richmond Times-Dispatch. "There is just no conservative right now who can mount a national campaign."
Has "Gov. No Car Tax" got a chance? UVA professor and political pundit Larry Sabato isn't so bullish. "The odds aren't all that favorable but,according to the old Publisher's Clearinghouse rule of politics, you can't win if you don't enter," he tells the Hook. "He is a hero of the large, anti-tax wing of the national Republican party. They will have to coalesce behind his candidacy, which is a long shot."
Gilmore is the sixth Republican to form such a committee– the first step toward formally declaring candidacy. With such a crowded field and many more contemplating joining it, Gilmore has to break away from the pack by staying staunchly conservative, says Sabato. "You've got three slots at the front and two of them are filled," he says. "But [Arizona senator] John McCain is a maverick and a lot of Republican constituencies don't like him, and [former New York City mayor] Rudy Giuliani is well-liked, but too liberal on social issues. So the remaining slot is for a down-the-line conservative on everything: social issues, national security issues, economic issues."
Sabato says the candidate closest to locking up that position is Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and it would appear Gilmore agrees. In a thinly veiled jab at the Bay State's top man, Gilmore told the RT-D, "I didn't run someplace and pretend I was a liberal and run someplace else as a conservative."
If his committee likes his chances, Gilmore says he will formally announce his presidential candidacy sometime next month, but that's not the only office he is eyeing. Could those less lofty offices have anything to do with Gilmore's presidential saber rattling? Sabato doesn't put it past him. "This could be an elaborate ploy to boost his stock in Virginia for a run for governor or the Senate," he says. "He's certainly expressed interest running for one of the two."
Indeed, just last week, the National Review asked Gilmore whether he'd be interested in a run for Senator John Warner's seat should he retire. Gilmore replied that "it would be a blast to talk policy all day in the Senate." As much as floor debates and committee meetings excite him, what really seems to have "Gov. No Car Tax" chomping at the bit is a possible gubernatorial match-up in 2009 against a certain other former guv. "I'd love to run against Mark Warner," he says.