Primary in the 12th
As you probably know, this battle is happening over the tax increase stance that Stosch has taken in both the 2004 budget standoff and now in the transportation funding debate.
This is a very GOP area, but more importantly is fiscally conservative more so than socially. Strangely enough, this is a senate district with one of the largest Allen/No votes (or conversely the least Webb/Yes) in the Commonwealth. This makes the race more likely to favor the challenger b/c the GOP base here is Republican because of their fiscal policy stance. Moreover, there is little chance a dem could beat a Republican here; so there won't be concern that voting for Blackburn could cost the GOP the seat.
Obviously Stosch being majority leader makes him a target by the challenge organizations b/c taking him out could help diminsh the power of the pro-tax wing of the party. Furthermore, it makes it very tough for Stosch to claim "its not my fault" when he has alot of control by being in leadership. He is also a member of the hated "Gang of 5".
On the monetary front, Stosch is crushing Blackburn. Cash on hand as of 12/31/06 looks like this:
Blackburn has some serious work to do here to make up ground if he has any shot of winning the nomination. This is largely due to Stosch still having the backing of most of the business community and also the powerful position he welds in the statehouse.
The X-factor in this race could be Blackburn's consultant, Boyd Marcus. Marcus is the consultant for most all the Richmond GOP power players from the delegate seats to Congressman Cantor and LG Bolling. One theory I have heard is that they are going to push very hard to get all these people on board behind Blackburn. I am very skeptical that this will happen (the more likely scenario is they do not support anyone), but if Marcus can deliver these key endorsements, Blackburn will have a very good shot at winning this one. Also, Marcus' connections should enable him to raise a significant amount of cash for Blackburn, thereby closing the massive gap he currently sets in.
I think Stosch has the early advantage; but if Blackburn can get closer to even in the money race and get traction, then it could get very interesting.
UPDATE: Stosch just voted for the transportation plan in committee. That will probably be helpful for him. He then voted against Chichester's plan (which passed).