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David McCormick: The Senate Candidate with "H.E.A.T."

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Norman Leahy

Senate candidate David McCormick isn’t making much of an impression in the polls (yet) and his political resume doesn’t match the leading GOP candidate, fmr. Sen. George Allen.  But he does have one thing Allen and the rest of the Republican field lacks: a theme.

In McCormick’s case, the theme is “Honesty, Efficiency, Accountability and Thriftiness,” or “HEAT.”  In our interview with him on “The Score” radio show, McCormick says these are the values that have motivated him over  his entire life, and he hopes they will become the bedrock principles in what he envisions as a new congressional culture: where incumbents grow the kind of spines they are notorious for lacking; and place where fidelity to the constitution reigns above petty concerns like getting re-elected.

So…is Mr. McCormick a tea party candidate without the Gadsden flag lapel pin?  Or perhaps a modern Cincinnatus?  Or maybe just an idealist looking to make a difference?

Maybe all three.  Using his handy “HEAT” theme, McCormick wants to “turn up the heat in Washington, in our party and in the bureaucracy to get the job done.”  He wouldn’t be the first candidate to say that in advance of an election (even one as distant as Virginia’s 2012 Senate race), but it’s also familiar.

Back in 1994, the Republican candidates who ran under the banner of the Contract with America pledged to do all sorts of radical things – from shunning PAC money (which sounds so quaint today), to shutting down entire government departments; they were going to set D.C.’s political culture on its ear.  And, for some of them, they intended to go home, honoring their term limit pledges.

The result was a mixed bag, but that same idealistic strain came through quite clearly in the McCormick interview.  When my colleague Scott Lee said that he’s heard the same “let’s clean up D.C.” line before, McCormick put it down to politicians getting consumed by the demands of their parties.  Would McCormick be willing to do the same thing with GOP Senate Leader Mitch McConnell?  I think he might.

But before any of that can happen, he must first get past the GOP primary, where George Allen holds not just a commanding lead in the early polls, but sits atop a campaign apparatus that should carry him to victory without much difficulty.  McCormick is unfazed.

He points to his long career in private business as one important difference between himself and the other candidates.  He’s created jobs, met payrolls and had to fight the red tape that often strangles private enterprise.  He also believes that, unlike the other candidates, he can grow the GOP because he’s spent his adult life working alongside the middle class and sharing their problems.

Perhaps so.  But when the topic changed to what he would do if elected, that’s when idealist McCormick turned tea partier.  He likes U.S. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s (R-Wisc.) plan to balance the federal budget, but says we can’t wait until 2030 to get there.  The budget needs to be balanced in three to five years, he said.  What about "block-granting" Medicare and Medicaid back to the states? Maybe, he says, a better avenue would be to go after the billions in fraud and abuse.

He’s all for dismantling federal departments, including the Department of Education and the Department of Energy.

On social issues, he’s for letting the states handle most of those matters.  He’s staunchly pro-life, and pro-marriage. But again, he wants those issues to be decided at the state level, not through congressional mandate.

So does McCormick stand a chance?  Possibly.  Like so many of those unknown, unheralded candidates who ran for office, some for the first time, in 1994, his simple “H.E.A.T.” theme might be just enough to set him apart from the rest of the field.

And lacking the resources George Allen commands, McCormick will need all the heat he can get. 

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