Fortunately, this short sighted, self-seeking behavior is not confined to the Democratic Party or liberals in general. Dr. Taylor at Poliblogger is passing along the Virginia GOP's decision to hold a Senate nominating convention.
The article indicates that the convention route is being sought as a way of better ensuring that former governor James Gilmore is nominated. The part of that logic that I find confusing is that if it takes a smaller, more elite-level process (as opposed to going to the rank-and-file Republican voter) to nominate Gilmore, would that not indicate a lack of broad support for the candidate, suggesting that perhaps he isn’t the party’s best choice in terms of fielding a candidate who can win the general election?
I think the same type of self-serving behavior that is self-crippling the Democratic House's ability to effectively and systemically differentiate itself from the Republican Party while alienating the liberal base is in play for the Virginia GOP leadership. Choosing group sub-optimal results maintains or increases individual relative power over the counterfactual power redistribution derived from choosing group optimal choices.
The Republican Party in Virginia knows that no matter what candidate they nominate for Senate in 2008 faces a very tough race with a very low probability of winning. They also know that the Virginia Democratic Party has found a fairly effective strategy for winning state wide elections in Virginia with Warner, Kaine and Webb being the exemplar examples. Some of this is pure demographics as the NOVA region is gaining in both population share and partisan directed behavior, and some is more effective outreach into Republican strong holds to either eke out narrow wins or more often to whittle away at the margin of defeat. Throw in a very popular candidate and probably a decent Democratic tail wind, and this is a tough seat to defend.
In this case, nominating a 'true' conservative and losing in a safe, predictable manner with a familiar but shrinking coalition threatens far fewer pre-exisiting power centers than taking the low probability of success risk of competing in a new manner with certain Democratically leaning demographic groups that Rep. Davis (R-VA) would at least attempt to contest. A different campaign with a 'moderate' candidate would bring in a different flow of volunteers, coalition rejiggering, and the identification of a new 'chump.'