Although this race is probably getting more press than it deserves, the lure of speculation continues to drive bloggers to comment. So here we go again.
I believe four issues are driving supporters in this race: ideology, recognition, perceived influence, and McCain. Ideology is a factor for those who are looking for leadership from like-minded individuals. For these delegates, Randy Pullen represents the conservative viewpoint, and Lisa James the moderate, even though both have professed very similar views on social issues. I'm going to call it basically even on this point as far as state delegate support for one candidate or the other.
Name recognition plays a greater role among those new to party activism. Randy will have the edge in recognition because he has been around much longer, very involved in the party at all levels, including the grassroots, and for several years traveled the state meeting fellow party activists. Of course, it helps that he has served the past few years as a national committeeman. All of this has led Randy to build a base of support over a period of years. Lisa, on the other hand, is at a distinct disadvantage here. Her experience in high level positions on campaigns that afforded her little opportunity to mingle with front-line party workers has made her an unknown in most areas of the state. Although she is working hard to overcome her lack of recognition by traveling and meeting with delegates, she is definitely in a position of playing catch-up.
Perceived influence relates to how delegates perceive the candidate to be chosen or supported by those in highly influential roles in the state party. Some delegates are concerned that the winner be well-connected and able to attract greater funding in the next election. The most obvious group impacted by this includes those considering future positions within the party as well as those contemplating a run at elected government office. Among these, Lisa probably has the edge due to support from the entire GOP congressional delegation as well as a number of large party donors.
The McCain factor is probably the most controversial of the four. Considering that Randy Pullen has been open in his opposition to the McCain-Feingold and amnesty-for-illegal-aliens bills sponsored by McCain, McCain undoubtedly expects few favors from Pullen. On the flipside, Lisa, as an unabashed supporter of McCain, would relieve some anxiety in the campaign if she were to hold the top post. While both have been accused of conspiring to work for their biases, each has publicly stated his or her commitment to be fair with all candidates and support whoever wins the GOP nomination. Now here's how the McCain factor plays out. McCain holds a level of unpopularity among party activists in the state, and he knows it, which is why he went to such great lengths to enlist Fife Symington and Lisa James to seek key positions in the party. The fact that many Republicans perceive McCain to be too cozy with the Democrats will not change in the next few weeks. Although there are many who are indifferent to McCain, there are those who either strongly support him or reject him. I believe McCain is rightfully concerned that among party activists with an attitude his supporters may be in the minority. Consequently, most of those influenced by the McCain factor will see James as too connected with McCain. And that will hurt her.
And the outcome? It won't be a squeaker, nor will it be a landslide. But my money's on Pullen by a moderate margin with recognition and the McCain factor making the difference.