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Government & Politics

Perfectly Qualified Gilmore Makes Curious Presidential Bid

The Republican presidential field just can't seem to stop expanding.

Jim Harrington · Jul. 29, 2015

The Republican presidential field just can’t seem to stop expanding. Former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore will announce his bid for the nomination next week, making it 17 candidates aiming to lead the post-Obama era.

A native of Richmond, Virginia, Gilmore grew up in a working-class neighborhood during a much more gentile time in our history. He seems the antithesis of the angry 21st century politician keeping his powder dry and blades keen.

He served in the Army during the Vietnam War as a counterintelligence specialist. That makes him only the second GOP candidate with military experience — Rick Perry is the other. After his tour, he returned to college, got a law degree and for 10 years worked in private practice. But politics had flowed through his veins since joining the Young Republicans as an undergrad (which took guts in 1971).

In 1993, he became attorney general in Virginia. In 1997, he won the governorship and was term-limited out after a single term, but he had many achievements in those four years. To name but a few:

  • He left office with a near $1 billion surplus.
  • He reformed education and introduced achievement tests, after which, scores rose on both state and national tests.
  • He signed a required 24-hour waiting and informed-consent period for women seeking abortions, as well as a ban on partial-birth abortion.
  • He signed a ban on human cloning.

In an interview with the Washington Examiner, Gilmore said the large field of candidates will actually benefit him. “[W]ith many, many candidates in there, there is room to have your voice heard,” he said. “The race is not jelling around the other candidates. … I recognize I’ve got a long way to go … but it is possible.”

He looks to New Hampshire’s primary for his kick-start, and he’s spent more time there so far than many of his opponents. “The people up there are just so darn nice,” he waxes. “New Hampshire is not like a lot of other places. They really understand the role that they have to play.”

The fact that so many are running means that one can finish in the top 10 with a single digit score, so in that sense, it’s even-Steven. But Gilmore’s Part Two argument, that it’s “easier to have your voice heard,” well, hardly — unless you draw attention to yourself in all the wrong ways. It’s going to be tough, for example, to crack the top tier for prime time debates, meaning the gap will only widen between the frontrunners and the other guys. That’s even more true of fundraising, as the other candidates have already locked up many of the major donors and support networks. It’s not just that Gilmore’s a bit late to the party, he’s not been much talked about leading up to his announcement.

In short, Gilmore’s motives remain a mystery. In the 2008 race, he bowed out in 2007, and he was far fresher and more viable then. Frankly, it’s too bad, because Gilmore is a solid conservative who brings a lot to the table. We just don’t think he can stand out in this cycle.

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