MORE THAN a quarter of Virginia’s electorate considers itself Republican, which translates to almost 1 million voters. Of that number, about 8,000 — less than 1 percent — showed up at the party’s convention in Richmond over the weekend to choose the GOP candidates in this November’s races for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general.
That, in addition to the party’s overall rightward tilt, helps explain how, in one of the nation’s most centrist states, Republicans came to choose a slate of hard-right conservatives.
It’s possible that Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II, whom the convention nominated for governor, could have won in an open primary, in which 10 times more Republicans might have taken part. But it’s far from certain.
That’s why Mr. Cuccinelli’s partisans, with a major push from tea party activists, fought against a primary and prevailed in an internal party power struggle against his somewhat more moderate rival, Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, who hoped for a primary. Mr. Bolling elected not to attend the convention, an extraordinary symbolic statement for a prominent incumbent.