Chesterfield School bus crash

GOLDMAN: Can Democrats defeat Dave Brat?

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

Paul Goldman is a local lawyer who helped run Doug Wilder's historic campaign for governor of Virginia.

RICHMOND, Va. – Seventh District Democratic nominee Jack Trammell is writing a book about Vampires. I don’t know the plot, but presumably we humans come out on top, at least long enough to vote for him this November.

Like giant-killer David Brat, the 7th District Republican nominee fresh off defeating incumbent GOP Congressman Eric Cantor in Tuesday’s party primary, Trammell is a professor at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland.

Giant Killer v. Vampire Killer: Who has the edge?

The political professionals in Washington consider the 7th district a sure win for Brat. This is consistent with the historical data for sure, but these were the same experts who said Eric Cantor could not lose to Brat, no way.

So can Trammell win? Only if he learns from Cantor’s fatal mistake. Cantor ran hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign ads that effectively told anti-Cantor voters to take Brat’s chance of winning seriously. This wasn’t Cantor’s intent of course when he spent all that money attacking Brat by name. But it gave Brat precious name identification and made voters take him seriously as competitive candidate.

That’s the threshold for any big underdog like Brat, and now Trammell. Learning from this, Trammell needs to do the following ASAP.

1. Start running hard ASAP. The TV media wants to cover the campaign NOW. Get the coverage while you can, it’s irreplaceable later on. The opening will fade quickly.

2. Challenge Brat to debates now. Brat has to accept or he will start to look like Cantor. Such debates will not help Brat, only Trammell assuming he is up to the job of congressional candidate.

3. Trammell should call on Brat to reject all PAC money. This should be a no-brainer.

4. Trammell needs to realize the 2014 turnout model means he does not need all the expensive TV money his consultants will claim. If he doesn’t learn this ASAP he can only win if Brat makes a fatal error.

5. The Senate race will bring out the voters, not the congressional race. Brat therefore needs to be careful in spending money on organization.

6. Trammell should not hire Cantor’s pollster. Okay, I guess he would know that anyway.

7. Trammell should call on Brat to take what is known as a “no negative” pledge, promising not to run any negative campaign ads on TV, radio, etc.

8. Trammell should likewise pledge not to attack Brat at any time unless attacked first. Trammell must make sure he looks like the anti-politician.

9. Trammell needs to avoid being labeled Jack Obama. If not, he can’t win the 7th. The President is going to be the big issue in the 7th right now. He needs a strategy ASAP.

10. Trammell has to embrace the “underdog” image in such a way as to be able to rib Brat about his now being de facto Washington incumbent. It has to be funny, and take away Brat’s biggest asset, his being Jimmy Stewart in “Mr. Smith goes to Washington” type of thing.


Jack Trammell must turn David Brat into Goliath. No one roots for Goliath. Everyone rooted for Jimmy Stewart.

Image is everything right now. Brat is the anti-politician, slayer of Cantor, the image of a politician. If Trammell follows the usual advice given to Democratic candidates, he will try and demonize Brat. That will not work in my view given Brat’s image and record.

Trammell therefore needs to focus on only one thing right now, proving he is also a decent guy, not a politician, whose word can be trusted.

Thus whatever he says must be credible. Voters are looking for “authentic” this cycle. From what I have read, Jack Trammell can meet those expectations. Cynicism, not Brat, is Trammell’s biggest political adversary right now.

Paul Goldman is in no way affiliated with WTVR. His comments are his own, and do not reflect the views of WTVR or any related entity. Neither WTVR nor any of its employees or agents participated in any way with the preparation of Mr. Goldman’s comments.


  • manalishi

    Just label Trammel for what he is,,,a democrat. The 7th district has been hosed by democrats enough. The only edge trammel can get is mass voter fraud.

  • Phil Wilayto

    How’s this for cynicism? Trammel, a political nobody, come out in support of Mayor Jones’ plan to drop a baseball stadium in Richmond’s Shockoe Bottom, once the hub of the U.S. slave trade. The endorsement is important, because Trammell wrote a book about this trade – a sloppily written, totally unfootnoted book with several historic inaccuracies, but still a book. Then the Democratic Party of Virginia, headed by Mayor Jones, picks Trammell to run in November in what everyone assumed would be a throwaway race with a predetermined finish. So Trammell, who is supposed to actually care about Richmond’s slavery-related history, allowed himself to be used and was rewarded with a little publicity. I think that’s called opportunism. Now Trammell has to run a real campaign, but he’s nowhere ready for prime time, which is why he avoided reporters descending on the Randolph-Macon campus after Brat’s victory. (His handlers said he needed a little prep time.) So now the choice – in my district – is the Ayn Rand apologist versus the opportunist neophyte. No wonder more and more people are ready to bolt the two-opary system.

  • Daniel Beasley

    First thing he needs to do is stop hiding, and decide which is more important right now his book, or the voters.

  • John

    Dave Brat just needs to continue what he’s been doing. Knocking on doors, listening to people’s opinions, and consolidate the Republican voters and independents. He should continue to point out that government can’t solve our problems, and that government is draining the economy by all the money it taxes us and mal-invests into housing bubbles, stock market bubbles, education bubbles, etc.
    We need to support the Free Market system and have opportunities for lots and lots of small businesses. Instead of the “Too Big To Fail” and “Too Big To Jail” institutions. People need to be held responsible for their lives and businesses should be held accountable for their actions.

Comments are closed.

Notice: you are using an outdated browser. Microsoft does not recommend using IE as your default browser. Some features on this website, like video and images, might not work properly. For the best experience, please upgrade your browser.