For the Democrats the story is a "good news, bad news" kind of thing. The good news is that Valley Democrats are in a growth mode attracting increasing diversity of folks to a bigger and bigger tent. The bad news is that in a full tent somebody may get elbowed. As Linda Wyatt, chair of the 6th District Democratic Committee noted, there is a "bigger umbrella" with more opinions and more personalities and some clashes are inevitable. In Roanoke City, Mayor David Bowers who was a long time Democrat, now serves as an independent. He supports Creigh Deeds for governor, but is a bit vague about who he'll support in some House races. Underlying Bower's "independence" seems to be a personal spat with Democrats who did not reelect his mother to the city committee.
Also jabbing at the party are a few known Democrats who occasionally get perverse pleasure or stroke their own egos by using the "trumpet" of their blogs to bash Democratic leaders or candidates on personality rather than issues. Last fall, for example, one often howled about the party's congressional candidate. In reality, those trumpets may be more like kazoos, and the commentary baseless, but that kind of thing can be a slow growing cancer. With the party firmly united behind Creigh Deeds, the disease is in remission... at least through November.
Over on the Republican side, the story is more of "bad news getting worse." Inside their pup tent, fingers are being pointed and the guard at the door has a litmus test for anyone wanting to enter. The party's right wing seems to be finding a spiritual home in the tea party movement and is unwilling to allow even garden variety conservatives a meaningful role. A Roanoke area GOP activist, Gilbert Butler observed,
"The social conservatives don't believe in the big tent theory and believe it's more important to have a more cohesive and unified party of conservatives rather than people who just call themselves Republicans."
His comments were directed at Roanoke Republicans but can also be applied to the state and national GOP. Most Americans have moved away from their extreme positions on abortion, guns, and gays. And, as heros of that faction fail their constituents - witness quitter Palin and unzipped Sanford - the social conservatives seem increasingly alienated even from themselves.
Still within the Virginia GOP the social conservative are the most potent force. Jeff Frederick may have been narrowly ousted as chair, but they nominated about as right wing a statewide slate as possible. The top of that ticket is already running away from them knowing electoral victory can't be found there. During Staunton's Independence Day parade, a Republican state senator rides in his own convertible rather than joining his own party's float.
Even more than the Democrats, GOP bloggers can be a nasty and mean-spirited bunch, saving their most potent venom for each other. Good stuff. Fun reading.