Perriello Takes Pole Position In VA-5

Among Virginia’s most vulnerable Congressional Democrats, freshman incumbent Tom Perriello in Virginia’s Fifth Congressional District leads the pack of those who should be shown the door in 2010.

According to NRCC political director Brian Walsh: “Perriello’s district is experiencing some of the highest unemployment rate in the state — yet he has voted for the job-killing trio of the stimulus, cap-and-trade, and government-run healthcare.”

When you combine Perriello’s less than fiscally responsible voting record with the political landscape of the central Virginia House District (The Cook Political Report affixes a Partisan Voting Index of R+5 to VA-5), one would think that Republican nominee Robert Hurt would be in the driver’s seat heading into the fall.

Wishful thinking!

Unfortunately recent fundraising totals paint a bleak picture for the Republican nominee. As of June 30, Perriello had $1.7 million in the bank, while Hurt reported $216,000.

Simply put, save Idaho’s Walt Minnick (D), few House members are as campaign savvy as Perriello. If you don’t believe us, just ask Virgil Goode (R), who Perriello knocked off in 2008 when it appeared that Goode was going to cruise to victory with less than one month to go in that election.

Additionally, Hurt, while not an incumbent, carries the burden of his state legislative career in a district where a significant portion of the conservative electorate would prefer fresh faces in every office. Compared to Perriello, we’re hard pressed to see how Hurt isn’t a good fit for his district, but the lingering animosities that fueled a six-way Republican primary in this district could hinder Hurt’s chances in the fall.

Some tea party activists still say the GOP nominee, state Sen. Robert Hurt of Chatham, is too mainstream and orthodox,” writes the AP’s Charles Babington. “One of them, Jeff Clark, is on the November ballot as an independent, and he threatens to siphon conservative votes from Hurt.”

Can Hurt Beat Perriello? Yes, but he certainly has a tough road ahead. He must solidify the conservative base, fundraise like mad (in 2008, Perriello raised just under $2 million for his campaign; in 2010, he is already on pace to raise close to $3 million), and expect a no-holds-barred campaign from his opponent.

Ford O’Connell and Steve Pearson are the co-founders of ProjectVirginia and CivicForumPAC