Former Virginia Governor James S. Gilmore came to Charlottesville this morning to speak at the monthly breakfast sponsored by the Albemarle County and Charlottesville Republican committees.
As might be expected from the presence of a former chief executive of the Commonwealth and a likely candidate for the U.S. Senate in 2008, the crowd was larger than normal. These monthly breakfasts are held at the Golden Corral restaurant on Route 29 north of Charlottesville, and the attendees generally fit into a small meeting room near the back of the building. This morning, the accordion wall of that room was opened up to accommodate an extra dozen or so activists who wanted to hear what Governor Gilmore had to say.
Gilmore, who recently ended a bid for the Republican presidential nomination, gave them what they expected. Appearing relaxed -- early in his speech, he doffed his jacket and spent the rest of the time in shirtsleeves -- and comfortable in his surroundings, Gilmore spoke mostly extemporaneously on a wide range of domestic and foreign policy issues, on Republican and Democratic election prospects during the 2008 cycle, on campaign finance regulations and the effect they have on fundraising, and other topics.
One message came through most clearly, however: That the future success of the Republican party relies primarily on the efforts of activists at the grassroots. To that extent, Gilmore gave a pep talk to Republican party members who might be feeling disheartened after last Tuesday's state legislative and local elections, but to define it that narrowly would be to sell the former governor short, because he addressed matters of substance, as well, and did so articulately and plainly.
I was there with video camera in hand and caught all but a few seconds of Governor Gilmore's presentation on tape. Pay close attention to a sequence in Part IV, where an audience member asks the governor who he likes in the Republican presidential contest.
At first, Governor Gilmore deflects the question by talking about the risk of seeing Hillary Rodham Clinton elected president. Then he tries, through humor, to avoid answering the question entirely. He does say he respects all the men running and then, graciously, adds "men and women," suggesting that all the candidates from both the Republican and Democratic parties are respectable people. In the end, however, he mentions only one presidential candidate by name: Ron Paul.
Here's the money quote to watch for:
"It's a lot about money. It requires years and years of preparation... It takes years to get the system together to raise the money to run for any federal office, and the presidency is awesome, because you have to have numbers. Ron Paul is out here and he's raising money right now from small donors. That's exactly the right thing to do."There is much more to see and hear. I apologize for the considerable buzz of background noise, which may make it difficult to understand some of Governor Gilmore's remarks. Unfortunately, as I noted earlier, this event did not take place in an enclosed room, and we had to contend with the hustle and bustle of a busy buffet restaurant offering a popular weekend special.
Note that early in his remarks, Governor Gilmore demurs on the question of whether he has decided to run for the U.S. Senate next year, but that by the end, he sounds like nothing less than a candidate. His confidence about being able to win the Northern Virginia vote -- and his boast (which is well-deserved) that he carried Northern Virginia during his two elections to statewide office -- says much about his willingness to carry his campaign right into Mark Warner's backyard.
This will be an interesting race to watch, and may turn out to be much more competitive than current public opinion polls indicate it to be.