Virginia's marquee governor's race got a jolt of the unexpected on Saturday, as Republicans added E.W. Jackson, a political novice and conservative firebrand, as the GOP's lieutenant governor nominee alongside lightning rod gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli.
But whether that jolt will be a burst of enthusiasm from Mr. Jackson, a minister and attorney, or a fatal shock to a ticket Democrats already derided as extreme and out-of-touch will be a fundamental part of the commonwealth's 2013 gubernatorial race.
"It's like the Herman Cain phenomenon," said Quentin Kidd, a Virginia political analyst and pollster at Christopher Newport University, "only this time he got the nomination."
The nomination of Jackson and the fate of a ticket lead by Mr. Cuccinelli, no stranger to incendiary rhetoric himself, emphasizes Virginia's place in the middle of the Republican Party's ongoing debate about whether electoral success will come through bolder conservative champions or less ideologically rigid candidates.
"Cuccinelli may be drawn into the Jackson orbit in a way that he doesn't want to be," says Professor Kidd.
That could prevent Cuccinelli from emphasizing the economic issues and the more personal side of his campaign, which he has highlighted in recent weeks.
On the other hand, "Cuccinelli may be able to tack to the middle by contrasting with Jackson," Kidd says, and in that way the lieutenant governor "could provide a very helpful foil to Ken Cuccinelli as well."
Jackson's addition to the ticket underlined where the Virginia GOP stands in the Republican Party's ongoing discussion about its future: In the commonwealth, conservatives showed they wanted a more forthright, defiant brand of conservatism.
"I think we learned that the conservative core is far more conservative than people thought it was" in Virginia, Kidd says.
Jackson's meteoric rise, helped along by a fiery speech on Saturday afternoon, was met with a withering critique from Democrats.
The party's first African-American nominee for statewide office since the 1980s was savaged by Democrats over his history of controversial statements on a number of topics - he once likened Planned Parenthood to the Klu Klux Klan, said that President Obama harbors "Muslim sensibilities," and has made a host of statements deriding homosexuality.
"Frankly, I'm rather appalled with the results, with the ideologically narrow scope of the Republican ticket that emerged from Richmond this weekend," said Vince Callahan, a long-time Republican state legislator who is backing this year's Democratic nominee, Terry McAuliffe, on a conference call with reporters.
"You're turning off not only the vast majority of all Virginians but a significant portion of the Republican base," he added.
Jackson is going to have to stand for his record, said Chris Jankowski, the president of the Republican State Leadership Committee, which works to elect Republicans at the lieutenant governor level and lower.
"I saw some things yesterday that I hadn't seen [about Jackson's past statements]," said Mr. Jankowksi at a discussion with reporters on Monday.
"No matter how deeply held our views our, politics is about addition and not subtraction," said Jankowski, a veteran of Virginia politics who attended the convention. …