Tag Archives: bolling

Neither Cuccinelli nor McAuliffe can win. And yet one of them must.

When a candidate is described as “divisive,” generally it’s intended to mean that while his own party loves him, the other party can’t stand him. In what’s shaping up to be a race between Terry McAuliffe and Ken Cuccinelli for the Virginia governorship, there are two wildly divisive candidates who are perhaps more divisive within their own parties than outside of it.

Four years ago, McAuliffe came in a distant second in a three-man race for the nomination for governor (despite raising $8M), won no geographic portion of Virginia, and endeared himself to nobody in the process. He’s never been elected to public office and has no constituency. The percentage of Democrats who would definitely not vote for him exceeds the percentage who would vote for him. That’s not in the primary—that’s in the general election. McAuliffe is a Clinton-era Democrat, the sort of old-school Democrat accustomed to winning elections by sucking up to power brokers, the sort who was purged from positions of power in the party round about 2005. It’s his turn to run for office, you see. He’s a glad-hander (it’s always “good to see you,” never “good to meet you”), always ready with the grip-and-grin. His performance at the 2009 Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner really said it all.

And the Bill Clinton thing. Good Lord, the Bill Clinton thing. Guess who McAuliffe just got off the phone with? Guess who he just played golf with? You know who told him the funniest thing the other day? McAuliffe cannot stop mentioning Clinton because it’s all he’s got. Terry McAuliffe : Bill Clinton :: Marge Simpson : Chanel suit.

McAuliffe’s business bona fides aren’t much better. Global Crossing. (Need I say more?) His current business, Greentech Automotive, recently established an auto plant…in Mississippi. Despite that McAuliffe knew full well that he’d be running for governor of Virginia, touting his business experience on a platform of creating jobs. (“The main reason Terry is running for Governor is to make it easier for companies to create jobs right here in Virginia,” says his spokesman.) Why didn’t he build the plant in Virginia? Oh, it’s not his fault—it’s the fault of Virginia Economic Development Partnership! “It was their decision,” McAuliffe spinelessly informed The Note. How was the location of his factory a decision of tiny state agency? They wouldn’t pay him enough to locate his plant in Virginia. Yes, McAuliffe believes that states should bid for businesses (an economic loser just about every time), even his own business, not by creating environments conducive to running businesses and recruiting employees, but by just offering cash. This, of course, is why this company was located in Hong Kong when he bought it—in a globalized economy, a lowest-bidder approach will leave manufacturing out of the U.S. permanently. Mississippi, you see, is the U.S.’s version of a third-world country. Perhaps McAuliffe will be running on a platform of making Virginia more like Mississippi? In their defense, VEDP says that McAuliffe never even completed their application. McAuliffe shopped around for a state in which to open a factory the same way that he shopped around for a state in which to run for governor. Virginia’s apparently great for running for governor, but not so great for building “cars” that are legally identical to golf carts.

Not one Democrat in a hundred is excited about McAuliffe. Democrats are fired up about him the same way that Republicans were fired up about Mitt Romney. The base will fake it through November and, if he loses, they’ll all say how they never really liked him in the first place. If he wins, of course, they always believed in him!

Then there’s Ken Cuccinelli. Christ, what an asshole. “Extremist” has seldom been a more suitable word to describe a candidate. He supports a no-exceptions ban on abortion, opposes homosexuality (period), thinks Virginia needs Arizona-style anti-immigration laws, believes that global climate change is a conspiracy theory, and thinks that President Obama didn’t really win reelection last month. He has 95% of the traits that have been laying waste to the Republican Party in recent years, save one—he’s not dumb. In fact, he’s an intelligent guy, and a too-common mistake made by Democrats is to believe that just because he professes wildly retrograde, utterly contra-factual beliefs, that he must be a fool. He is not. (This is in sharp contrast with Sarah Palin, Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann, etc., who, even collectively, are dumber than a sack of hammers.) Unlike McAuliffe, he actually has a base, and he’s been elected to office repeatedly. He represented Fairfax in the General Assembly for two terms and, of course, successfully ran for attorney general. While McAuliffe is a generic sort of a centrist-ish Democrat who is hobbled by a terrible personality and the perception that he’s a carpetbagger, Cuccinelli is hobbled by holding views that are wildly out of step with Virginians, Americans, and the facts. I’d guess about 20% of the electorate probably adores him, but far more deplore him (or will, come next October).

Cuccinelli is the sort of social conservative that’s driving a wedge into the Republican Party. Regular ol’ fiscally conservative Republicans have tolerated allowing this type into the tent so long as they’ve furthered the same collective goals, but it’s started to get embarrassing (e.g., the Tea Party). Those regular Republicans were victorious in the nomination process for the presidency this year, allowing Romney to defeat a field that consisted largely of crazies, but after Romney’s loss, it’s not clear which side will be running the party soon. Dick Armey’s departure from FreedomWorks (one of the the Koch-funded companies that created and bankroll the Tea Party) is the latest evidence that the conservative power brokers have lost control over their own creations—the inmates are running the asylum. Cuccinelli is proudly on the inmates’ side of the fence, and unless he’s prepared to tamp down that image, he’s going to have a tough time getting support from the kind of Republicans who supported Mark Warner over Jim Gilmore. This, of course, is why Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling is flirting with running as an independent. His is the wing of the party that thinks that the grassroots need to be trimmed back (to abuse a metaphor), the wing that Cuccinelli is going to have a tough time wooing, and a tougher time still if Bolling gets into the race.

Power-brokers on both sides are pooh-poohing talk of primary challengers and third-party candidacies. When former congressman Tom Perriello demurred a few days ago, that was the prompt for Democrats to declare that it’s time to get behind McAuliffe as our candidate. This has not been greeted with enthusiasm.

All of this reminds me of the Republican presidential nomination process in 2008 and 2012. Reviewing every candidate, there was a clear and obvious argument to be made as to why they couldn’t possibly win the nomination. And yet somebody had to win and, indeed, somebody did. Neither Cuccinelli nor McAuliffe can possibly win a gubernatorial election. And yet—unless somebody else enters the race—one of them will.

This is the worst kind of election, the kind in which a supermajority of the voters in each party have to support not their preferred candidate, but the one whom they loathe the least. (To be fair, this is how some voters feel about every election.) That may be what makes it such an ideal race for a solid third-party candidate like Bolling to take a run at election. Russ Potts’ 2005 gubernatorial candidacy was a threat to Republican nominee Jerry Kilgore, but there was never any danger of him winning the election. Republicans were OK with Kilgore, and Democrats liked Tim Kaine. Things are different this time. If Bolling can trim his sails a bit (he is a conservative Republican after all), he can take votes from both candidates, money from both sides, and I think it’s entirely possible for him to win. At least, then, it’ll be possible for somebody to win.

Governor Bolling: Good for Virginia Democrats.

I’ve spent the past couple of weeks mulling over the possibility of Tim Kaine getting the nod as Barack Obama’s running mate, and I’ve come to the decision that it wouldn’t be such a bad thing. On the whole, I think it would be good for the Obama campaign, good for Virginia Democrats, and certainly good for Tim Kaine.

Why Kaine?

I’ve lamented that Kaine would be a bad choice for VP, and I think that’s true, in the sense that there are—or, rather, were—much better contenders. Both Sen. Jim Webb and Gov. Mark Warner leap to mind immediately. But, one by one, those better contenders took themselves out of the running. And there’s nothing to be gained in comparing the available candidates against hypothetical candidates. From the field of individuals understood to be contenders for Obama’s vice presidential nominee right now, I think Kaine’s probably the best guy.

What Kaine lacks, in comparison to a hypothetical ideal, is a reputation as a centrist and a military background. (I expect that he’ll have a reputation as a centrist in the years ahead, after his term is over, but now he’s simply known at best as somebody trying to be a centrist. Warner’s image as a centrist likewise enjoyed a boost possible only in retrospect.) But Kaine’s Catholic moorings and governorship of a conservative state is enough to persuade the average American voter that he’s a centrist. Likewise, Kaine isn’t of the south, but the rest of the country doesn’t know that, what with his being governor of a southern state. It’s not clear to me that Kaine could deliver Virginia, but the odds would certainly improve.

The other leading contender, if one believes the rumor mill, is Deleware’s Sen. Joe Biden. He’s an amicable guy, a funny and forceful speaker, and has a relatively good record in the Senate. (Many people find his support of the bankruptcy “reform” bill for his state’s credit card debt industry an unforgivable sin. I won’t go that far, but I lost a lot of respect for him.) He’s 65 years old, giving the ticket some much-needed gray hair, and he’s held his seat since 1973, giving the ticket some much-needed experience. On the other hand, Biden is a bit of a loose cannon, and doesn’t bring a state with him. There are some definite upsides to the choice of Biden—I could even be persuaded that he’d be a better pick than Kaine—but I remain a Kaine man.

Good for Virginia Democrats

I have an awfully difficult time fearing the prospect of Governor Bill Bolling. I’ve fostered kittens that I’ve found more threatening than Lt. Gov. Bolling. Part of that comes from his career, which has substantially consisted of him insisting that he and Kaine are BFF, and part of that comes from watching hours of video of the Virginia senate, over which he wields an iron Downy-soft fist of fear wuv. Obviously, I believe that Kaine makes a better governor than Bolling would, but there’s not much damage that he can do in a year and two months, especially since the budget is set through the rest of his term. He’d spend his first year bound to the machinations Kaine has already set in place.

What I really like about this is the disarray that it would throw Virginia Republicans into. They’ve managed to plan out the 2009 election pretty neatly, with AG Bob McDonnell running for governor and Bill Bolling running for reelection as LG. But with Bolling already in the governor’s mansion, that leaves McDonnell running for reelection as AG, at best, and challenging Bolling for the nomination, at worst. Bolling would be a much weaker candidate for governor than McDonnell—he’s milquetoast next to McDonnell—which has got to be a big part of why Bolling stepped aside for McDonnell to run. Short of a challenge by McDonnell, Virginia Republicans would be stuck with Bolling as their ’09 candidate.

Better still, Virginia Republicans would regard Bolling’s ascension as a victory. Rather than understanding that they simply got lucky—that Kaine handed the governor’s office to Republicans—their dwindling core of true believers would genuinely believe that Bolling’s governorship means that the electorate is clamoring for their flat-earth vision of government. Which is, of course, precisely the opposite of the truth.

Remember this basic truth: when handed an opportunity, Virginia Republicans never fail to squander it utterly. The bigger the opportunity, the more devastating the damage to the party. Governor Bolling? Epic fail. I would fully expect the far-right wing of the party to be furious with Bolling in a matter of months.

The biggest reason why I think that Governor Bolling would be good for Virginia Democrats is that we’re getting too big for our britches. Urban Democrats are acting like we’ve got 60% of the electorate on board, when it’s more like 45%, at best. Victory after victory has made Democrats’ reclamation of the entire Virginia political field seem inevitable. And it is, as long as we don’t screw up. We’ve got to play like we’re three runs down, but I don’t think that Democrats in liberal population centers understand the need for that. Virginia Democrats need to understand that winning the governor’s seat is far from a sure thing. I can’t think of a better way to get that message across than actually losing that seat due to our own success in the form of Vice President Kaine.

This may well all be moot in hours or, at most, a few days. If Kaine doesn’t get the nod from Obama, that’s great—life will go on normally. But if he does, there’s no need for Democrats to tear out their hair—Kaine will go on to better things, and the DPVA will ultimately be better for it.