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State Convention Puts Virginia Republicans At Odds With RNC

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Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli gestures as he talks about the Supreme Court decision on the Health Care law during a press conference. Cuccinelli's willingness to take on President Obama has made him a favorite with party activists.
AP Photo/Steve Helber
Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli gestures as he talks about the Supreme Court decision on the Health Care law during a press conference. Cuccinelli's willingness to take on President Obama has made him a favorite with party activists.

Tension may be growing between state Republican leaders in Virginia and the Republican National Committee.

Recommendation Six of the document the national Republican Party calls the Growth and Opportunity Project discourages the use of conventions and caucuses to allocate delegates for the national convention. The greater the number of people who vote in a Republican primary, the logic goes, the more likely they will turn out and vote again for the Republican candidate in the future.

"The smaller the nomination electorate is, the more problematic it may be for the party to win in a general election," says University of Mary Washington professor Stephen Farnsworth.

In Virginia, the Republican Party was planning a primary for this year's governor s race. That is, until supporters of Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli seized control of the executive committee, changed the rules, ditched the statewide primary and called for a closed convention.

"The tea party is in control," says Toni-Michelle Travis, political science professor at George Mason University. "I think Virginia probably will be clinging to a far right position longer than the national Republican Party."

University of Virginia Center for Politics analyst Geoff Skelly says state leaders have to be concerned about election rules in the commonwealth.

"You have people who are not actual members of the Republican Party who can vote in those primaries," Skelly says. "That concerns conservative activists because they think the candidates who come out of those can often be more moderate."

Skelly says that tension could mean trouble for the GOP.

"What poses a bigger problem for the Republican Party in general moving forward is a serious divide between kind of the conservative activists and the more establishment side of things," Skelly says.

Because it is one of the only gubernatorial races on the ballot this year, the election in Virginia is likely to set the stage for whatever direction the party takes in the future.

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