Gil­more to form ex­ploratory panel; weighs 2008 odds

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Ralph Z. Hallow

James S. Gil­more III, the for­mer Repub­li­can gov­er­nor of Vir­ginia who is a hero to anti-tax con­ser­va­tives, will form a com­mit­tee this month to as­sess his prospects for a cam­paign for pres­i­dent in 2008.

Mr. Gil­more, 57, as se­cre­tive about his plans now as he was when he was a pros­e­cu­tor, first for Hen­rico County and then as state at­tor­ney gen­eral, de­clines to say who will head his ex­ploratory com­mit­tee, or whether that per­son has ex­pe­ri­ence run­ning a 50-state cam­paign.

Mr. Gil­more said in an in­ter­view that he has vis­ited the key pri­mary and cau­cus states and has put staff “on the ground” in some of them. He would not say who or where.

A Repub­li­can of­fi­cial in the early pri­mary state of South Carolina says Mr. Gil­more “be­gan mak­ing noise down here when Ge­orge Allen [the re­tir­ing sen­a­tor from Vir­ginia] be­gan bleed­ing heav­ily. My guess is he saw ‘the con­ser­va­tive South­ern can­di­date’ drop­ping out and that he could fill that role.” Mike Huck­abee, the re­tir­ing Repub­li­can gov­er­nor of Arkansas, is ex­am­in­ing his prospects as such a re­gional fa­vorite son al­ready.

“There is a huge con­ser­va­tive void in the race for the Repub­li­can nom­i­na­tion for pres­i­dent right now and Jim Gil­more is down the line, 100 per­cent cor­rect on all the is­sues that mat­ter to con­ser­va­tives,” says one ea­ger Vir­ginian, who asks to re­main anony­mous be­cause he wants work in the cam­paign of whoever is the even­tual Repub­li­can nom­i­nee.

If Mr. Gil­more en­ters the race, the next big ques­tion will be whether he can raise the $100 mil­lion that Fed­eral Elec­tion Com­mis­sion Chair­man Michael Toner says se­ri­ous con­tenders will have by the end of next year.

“Gil­more had a strong and es­tab­lished fundrais­ing base when he was in the gov­er­nor’s man­sion in Rich­mond. This el­e­ment, com­bined with his strength among grass-roots con­ser­va­tives, could en­able Gov­er­nor Gil­more to emerge as a top-tier can­di­date.”

Mr. Gil­more served briefly as Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee chair­man be­fore los­ing a bat­tle with White House chief po­lit­i­cal strate­gist Karl Rove over who would ac­tu­ally run the na­tional com­mit­tee.

The South Carolina of­fi­cial says Mr. Gil­more may have com­pe­ti­tion from an­other for­mer gov­er­nor who is warmly re­garded by con­ser­va­tives.

“I don’t see a lot of ex­cite­ment around the Gil­more ef­fort so far,” he says, adding that he met for­mer Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keat­ing at lunch for the first time on Dec. 20. “Keat­ing says he’s think­ing about run­ning. Looks like he’ll draw heav­ily from his days [as an FBI agent] dur­ing the Rea­gan ad­min­is­tra­tion. Ed Rollins [the 1984 Rea­gan re-elec­tion cam­paign man­ager] will help him if he runs.”

J.M. Eddins Jr./The Wash­ing­ton Times

James S. Gil­more III, seen in 2001 aboard a plane dur­ing a visit to Fort Pick­ett, Va., when he was the state’s gov­er­nor, said re­cently that he has vis­ited key pri­mary and cau­cus states as he con­sid­ers a White House run. But he de­clined to say who will head his ex­ploratory com­mit­tee.

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