WASHINGTON, August 18, 2015 — Former Republican Gov. Jim Gilmore, R-Va., told the Associated Press a few weeks ago that he intended to run for president. Two weeks ago he reiterated to me that it is his intention to run, a prospect that seemed likely since his appearance in November on my Price of Business show.
He came on the program to discuss the “pro-growth” economic strategy of the organization he represented, the Free Congress Foundation. This organization, once a bastion of social conservative causes under the leadership of the late Paul Weyrich, changed its focus under Gilmore.
During the interview it made perfect sense to me to ask Gilmore about the many people last year who were making it clear they intended to jump into the presidential race. He immediately contrasted the unique set of skills that a former governor has to take over the nation’s chief executive office to the “grand- standing” that is so typical of senators.
He said that he had not seen “at this point” anyone he was happy with, someone who was “probably going to grow the economy.” He added, in the language of a candidate, that “I’ve determined that 2016” will be about promoting a program to increase wages and to stimulate economic growth. He would do everything he could to pursue that agenda.
At that point, it was clear he intended to run, but at the same time it seemed ludicrous.
It has been well over a decade since Gilmore served one term as Virginia’s governor. Unable to run for re-election because of the state constitution’s prohibition of consecutive terms, Gilmore worked in various capacities to help GOP candidates and causes.
In 2008 he made his first failed run at the White House. Gilmore said he represented “the Republican wing of the Republican Party” in the race; the comment was a page from a slogan used by Howard Dean when seeking the Democratic nomination in the 2004 election (Dean in turn took that slogan from the late Sen. Paul Wellstone).
After raising only slightly more than $170 after three months campaigning, Gilmore withdrew from the race without facing a single primary or caucus. That same year, he ran for the U.S. Senate against Democrat Mark Warner in Virginia and lost by a huge margin, winning only four counties.
The big question is, with the largest number of GOP candidates in a primary in modern history, what motivates Gilmore to run now? It is not as if there are no others with similar experiences. Governors (former and active) seem to be dominating the lot. I think 2016 will be an interesting political season and will go down in history as a year to attract the largest number of credible and viable candidates for the GOP who will go absolutely nowhere.