Through the entire campaign for the Republican Senate nomination, George Allen has been treated as the inevitable nominee, despite facing three challengers.
The former governor and one-term senator already has staged one debate with the Democratic candidate, former Gov. Tim Kaine, and most polling in the race has focused on a matchup between the two former governors.
With Tuesday’s primary just days away, it still seems unlikely any of his challengers will pull an upset, said Mark Rozell, professor of public policy at George Mason University.
“Standard measures — polls, fundraising — all point to an easy victory for Allen,” he said.
But don’t tell that to E.W. Jackson, Bob Marshall or Jamie Radtke. All three say they have reason to believe they could pull an upset.
Jackson, a bishop from Chesapeake with a varied background that includes stints in radio, law and the Marine Corps, reaches to the biblical story of David and Goliath for his inspiration.
“We have a five smooth stone strategy,” he said, referencing the stones David collected before battling the giant.
Jackson said his background helps him appeal to military veterans, evangelical Christians, business owners and the black and Hispanic communities.
“We need someone who is capable of inspiring and motivating and communicating the conservative message” to all of those constituencies, he said, emphasizing his prowess as a public speaker.
Radtke, the former chairwoman of the Federation of Virginia Tea Party Patriots, is banking on her background and experience organizing conservatives at the grassroots level to bring home a first victory at the polls. She also plans to run TV ads in the final days of campaigning.
She is focusing on her core message of cutting government spending.
“That is really starting to resonate with voters,” she said. “We’re seeing that we’re eating into Allen’s numbers.”
Marshall’s angle of attack is using his high-profile role in the state legislature to boost his name recognition statewide. He thinks he would be an effective opponent against Kaine because he has a record of winning fights against him in the legislature and in the courts.
“I’ve had fights with Tim Kaine where I bested him,” he said.
Marshall and Radtke both said they think the low turnout expected in the primary could be helpful to them.
“Low turnout means that the advantage that someone with a lot of money like George Allen normally would have is somewhat neutralized,” said Marshall, who entered the race late and has raised less than any of his opponents.
Allen has raised more than $6.7 million, according to federal campaign finance reports, while Radtke has raised the most of his primary challengers, at a little more than $670,000.
Rozell said there always is an opportunity for surprises in a low turnout primary, “but that is hard to imagine here.”
The Allen campaign is focused on defeating Kaine, but isn’t neglecting the primary.
“While we're not taking anything for granted, we are very encouraged with the strong grassroots support George Allen is receiving from Virginians ready to send Washington a message that they've had enough of the failed economic policies,” said Emily Davis, a spokeswoman for the Allen campaign.