Heading into last weekend’s “Advance”—the annual confab held by the Republican Party of Virginia (RPV) to talk shop, party hearty, and plan strategy for the coming year—current RPV Chairman Jeff Frederick knew that he might be in for a rough ride. After all, not only had the much-despised Democrats thoroughly trounced the GOP at every level in the November elections, besting Republicans at the top, bottom, middle and occasionally along all four edges of the ticket, but also Frederick had attracted a great deal of negative attention for some of his pre-election antics.
Most notoriously, Frederick had earned a public rebuke from John McCain himself after informing a group of election volunteers (in front of a Time magazine reporter, no less) that, since the Democratic presidential nominee had once attended a coffee klatch with one-time Weather Underground member William Ayers, “both Barack Obama and Osama bin Laden have friends that have bombed the Pentagon.”
Admittedly, Frederick’s over-the-top insults (and fear-mongering, and attempted voter suppression) wouldn’t have mattered one whit to the party faithful if he had managed to deliver a whopping Republican victory in Virginia. But he did not, and thus the long knives came out with a vengeance, and the usually uneventful Don Huffman Annual Advance began to look less like a relaxing weekend at The Homestead and more like a looming iceberg that might just capsize Frederick’s already leaking chairmanship.
The most pointed volley in the anti-Frederick onslaught came from ’70’s-era RPV Executive Director J. Kenneth Klinge, who sent out a mass e-mail criticizing the current chairman for everything from his “immaturity and lack of judgment” to his lackluster fundraising ability to his piss-poor vacation planning. (“In the heat of the most important election in our lifetime,” Klinge fumed, “Frederick took 10 days off in September to go on a junket to Israel.”)
So, knowing that his job was, in all probability, hanging by a thread, what did Frederick do? He went in front of a group of newspaper editors at last Tuesday’s Associated Press Day in D.C., and staunchly defended his “stupid joke” (“it was true, it’s factual and so I’m not going to apologize for that,” he declared) while going out of his way to blame the whole thing on his party’s recent presidential nominee. (“The McCain campaign, for quite a while, was getting on me about not being on message, about not delivering their talking points,” Frederick groused. “And in an effort to do more of what they wanted…I was doing that, and the Ayers talking point came out.”)
And yet, despite all of this self-destructive behavior and unsportsmanlike conduct (not to mention being named Keith Olbermann’s “Second Worst Person in the World”), Frederick miraculously managed to survive the weekend’s RPV mope-in with his chairmanship temporarily intact.
The question is, however, for how long? There’s little doubt that a sizeable chunk of Virginia Republicans are unhappy with the party’s recent downward trajectory, and are looking for a shake-up at the top. As Frederick himself told the AP: “We can’t continue to be the old white guy party. We can’t win elections being the party of the past.”
Unfortunately for him, a growing number of restless RPV members couldn’t agree more—and many may be eyeing a Frederick-free future.