You may have never heard of Wayne Powell, but you've heard of his opponent. Powell, a retired Army veteran, is taking on the Republican House Majority Leader, Eric Cantor, in Virginia's Seventh Congressional District.
Cantor's own campaign admits Powell is the congressman's most serious opponent since he took on Dukes of Hazzard star, Ben "Cooter" Jones, back in 2002. Cantor won by a big margin, but his numbers have slipped in the decade since, giving Powell hope that he can unseat the Majority Leader.
A look at Henrico County, the district's largest and home to the Richmond suburbs, bears that out. In 2002, Cantor won Henrico by 46 points. In 2006, he won it by just 27 points. (Democrats didn't run a candidate in 2004 and Cantor beat Independent, W. Brad Blanton, by a 3-to-1 margin.) In 2008, the margin in Henrico slipped to 22 points and by 2010, it was just 19.
It mirrors Cantor's shrinking margin of victory across Virginia's Seventh Congressional District. He won re-election in 2002 by 39 points, then saw the gap narrow to 30 points in '06, 26 points in '08 and 25 points in 2010. It was a solid margin, to be sure, but half of what it once was.
Wayne Powell still has an uphill climb in his campaign to win the Virginia seat, but the numbers show that the odds of him pulling it off aren't nearly as long as they once were. Dave "Mudcat" Saunders is a longtime political strategist who helped Jim Webb and Mark Warner win in Virginia. He's working for Powell now and Monday on The Daily Rundown, Mudcat said that Virginia is the tale of two states. He says in the northern part of the state, it's "hard to find a Republican with a search warrant," but even so, the national Democratic party writes off Virginia. Mudcat says the Democrats need to come to Virginia with a message that gives more credit and respect to the Old Dominion's culture.