McDonnell's Role Grows in the Frederick Saga

The WaPo’s Tim Craig throws fuel on the fire in what is becoming an almost MacBeth-like effort to remove Jeff Frederick as RPV chairman. Consider this about GOP gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell:

McDonnell injected himself into the debate to help undermine Frederick. In a statement last week, McDonnell said it would be helpful for the Republican Party of Virginia to have more effective leadership. On a conference call with reporters Monday, McDonnell said the “grass roots” of the party want new leadership. GOP insiders say McDonnell’s campaign staff played a key role in lining up signatures to call the special election.

Frederick said in an interview that he’s “not surprised” McDonnell is trying to oust him because “Bob didn’t support me for chairman in the first place.”

If true, then Bob (or his people) may be playing with forces they have no idea how to control. For example:

In late May, the GOP will convene to formally declare McDonnell the nominee. This year’s convention will probably be dominated by many of the social conservatives who helped install Frederick last year.

They might not go along with a love fest for McDonnell. He might have to quell unrest from delegates angered by Frederick’s removal. Some Republicans say they think Frederick could also launch a floor fight at the convention to get his job back, which would be a major distraction for McDonnell.

And that’s where Del. Bob Marshall enters the stage. Marshall, for those who aren’t familiar with him, challenged former Gov. Jim Gilmore for the GOP Senate nomination last year — and came within a whisker of winning:

Marshall predicts the conservative base will quickly turn on McDonnell if it appears Frederick is “railroaded.” Marshall said an independent committee should be set up to evaluate the accusations against Frederick.

“If an independent group doesn’t do this, this is going to seriously damage Bob McDonnell,” Marshall said. “The folks who came to the convention who voted for me and voted for Frederick, they just won’t work for McDonnell.”

Tim then goes on to wonder whether Frederick will go the Russ Potts route and start a “shadow party” that might even lead to Frederick challenging McDonnell from the right.  For those who have pushed Potts out of their minds, Rusty was one of the more unstable members of the old Republican guard in the state Senate who threw it all away to run as an “independent Republican” in the 2005 race. He garnered a whopping 2% of the general election vote.

I discount the “shadow” possibility. Frederick may be many things, but he’s not in the same, kooky and desperately lonely league as ol’ Russ. But the possibility does make for good copy, no?

Regardless, McDonnell and his people would be wise to listen to Marshall. He has a statewide following — and Marshall is right to warn that if the folks who supported him sense Frederick being railroaded, and McDonnell’s fingerprints are on the caboose, then McDonnell may have made the first and biggest unforced error of the campaign.

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