Stop Terry: Virginia on Tuesday Is Ground Zero for the Democratic Party

By Al Giordano

I’m not sure which of these two scenarios would be worse for the future of the Democrats: Terry McAuliffe wins Tuesday’s primary for governor, and Independent voters, horrified, begin an exodus from their fairly recent Democratic voting patterns to bring a resurgence of the GOP in the Old Dominion, or that McAuliffe could win on Tuesday and then somehow pull off a general election victory to become a daily embarrassment to the national Democratic Party from his mansion in McLean, just a golf ball’s shot from Washington, DC.

As Nate Silver and Kos both note, Virginia voters may be solving this problem on their own. McAuliffe’s frontrunner status is crashing in the final stretch as one of his two primary rivals, Creigh Deeds, has overcome him in the aggregate of polls:

McAuliffe, still, can't be counted out. He has buckets of cash (there are no effective limits on the amount of money the super-rich can donate to a Virginia gubernatorial candidate), the backing of former president Bill Clinton and the considerable detritus of the Clinton machine. But in recent years McAuliffe has been on the wrong end of the two big revolts that paved the way for the Democratic Party to finally win again. As chairman of the Democratic National Committee, McAuliffe was overthrown by the insurgent candidacy of Howard Dean (paving the way for the 50 state strategy and so many other reforms). As finance chairman, and frequent TV surrogate, for the Clinton 2008 presidential campaign, McAuliffe continued to embody that fast-and-loose money-obsessed yuppie old guard of the Democratic Party of the last century that Obama and his community organizer and small donor army toppled in historic battle.

A McAuliffe victory on Tuesday would thus have repercussions beyond Virginia. It would announce to the nation that the party hasn't really changed, that 2008 was a mere abberation. It would strongly suggest that, hard as so many in it try, that what Howard Dean called “the democratic wing of the Democratic Party” will never be able to complete the clean-up of its worst, most corporate, elements. It would reestablish that those who nearly destroyed the Democratic Party in the 1990s are an incurable affliction, like herpes; and they will keep coming back as a big oozing sore on the lips to frighten swing voters away.

Not being a resident of Virginia, and not being an endorser of candidates, I don’t tell anybody else what to do or how to vote. And I don’t have strong feelings about McAuliffe’s primary opponents, State Senator Creigh Deeds and Brian Moran, a former member of the House of Delegates, except to warn of the danger that they split the anti-McAuliffe vote. Although it is my general sense that Moran is somewhat more liberal-progressive than Deeds, the overriding question here is which of them can best shovel the dirt onto McAuliffe’s political grave, saving the Commonwealth, the Republic and the Party from his disgraced and corrupted pay-to-play method of politics. The polling trends suggest Deeds is better positioned, and frankly, even if Moran were my bestest dearest lifetime friend, if I were a Virginia voter, I would right now be looking to Deeds as the emerging anti-Terry.

As readers know, I don’t comment much on state and local elections in the United States. It is only when they become of national import do they raise much interest from this corner. Shortly I’ll shine some light on another possible contest like that: explaining why US Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Manhattan) can safely disregard the reported pressures by the White House (Kabuki theater, though they may be!), the Clinton-Schumer machine, or anybody else to dissuade her from challenging appointed Senator Kirsten Gillibrand in this year’s Democratic primary; a battle Maloney can win, and also an important one for the continuing crusade for the heart and soul of the national Democratic Party.

But first things first: On Tuesday, Virginia will be ground zero in the ongoing struggle to dump the dirty bath water from the Democratic Party tub. A defeat of McAuliffe in the primary would start the ball rolling for the 2010 midterm elections for the newly regenerated community organizer wing of the Democrats to continue advancing. It would encourage other candidates to step forward throughout the country to continue to challenge and defeat those that not too long ago crucified the party on a cross of special interests. Tuesday's lesson could be that one good Deeds deserves another…

Monday Morning Update: The newest poll, from PPP, suggests that the scenario projected here on Friday is demonstrably happening: Deeds at 40 percent, McAuliffe 26 percent, Moran 24 percent.

McAuliffe's negatives are now as high as his favorables (40 percent in both categories) whereas Deeds enjoys a 57-14 percent fave-to-neg rating (Moran is doing well at 47-23, but his +24 is still overwhelmed by Deeds' +43). Also interesting: Where McAuliffe had, in previous polls, enjoyed a healthy lead among African-American voters, he's slipped significantly there and Deeds now virtually ties him among A-A voters. (That may be the downside of having Bill Clinton campaign for you so visibly in Virginia.)

Of course, in a low turnout election, field organization (that which determines who gets out to vote) will be more determinative than polls. Could still end up very very close.




Crossposted to DKos


The gubernatorial puzzle in VA...

Al's frame about the stakes for the Democratic Party in Virginia is correct.  As someone who lives and votes in the state, here's what I've seen happening:

Everyone assumed that this was Brian Moran's nomination for the taking.  He's got the looks, the substance, and the progressive instincts to appeal to the same constituencies that gave the state to Obama in last November's election.  He also plays the inside game tirelessly, and is known to and respected by Virginia pols in all corners of the state.  The problem is that he came out of the fundraising gate fairly slowly, and his campaign has seemed listless.

In contrast, McAuliffe raised a ton of money from his national network and translated it into a happy, flesh-pressing, ideas-a-minute campaign.  He's wowed a lot of moderate Democrats with his sheer dynamism.  Thus his early run-up in the polls.

Deeds's campaign has also had surprising bounce, though from the grass roots.  Not exactly a charismatic guy, he's a respected moderate who's easily adapted to the Warner-Kaine brand.  As a state senator, he represents Charlottesville, the liberal city that's home to the University of Virginia.  What he has that Moran doesn't is a bit more down-home warmth, and what he has that McAuliffe lacks is a what-you-see-is-what-you-get naturalness, even if it does seem a bit Smucker's Strawberry Jam-like at times.  The big thing that bosted him was the Washington Post endorsement:  suddenly northern Virginia paid attention to him.

I started with a preference for Moran, because I knew he was a hard worker who'd be a good governor.  But McAuliffe has run circles around him when it's come to campaigning, so Deeds's just-plain-folks, real-deal quality may be a safe alternative if it looks like he has a better chance of winning the primary.

The general is a whole other proposition, because the Republican nominee, Bob McDonnell, is unbelievably good-looking, articulate, warm and moderate.  Think Tim Pawlenty or Charlie Crist.  Some thought McAuliffe would be able to dismantle him with a huge ad campaign, but the McAuliffe Express may already have become a bit obvious and overripe.  Deeds may be the right tortoise for the race:  reassuringly from central Virginia, reassuringly moderate on social issues for an electorate which is still in that position, and yet visibly in the mold of Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, the popular Democratic governors he hopes to follow.






we're doing our best in Virginia

to keep Terry down. I've been knocking doors and talking to undecideds and leaners for the past few weeks for Brian Moran's campaign. Truth be told, here in Alexandria city Creigh Deeds is a bit of a non-starter AND this is Brian's home territory. But we're working every non-Terry vote we can press to get. Brian's campaign has been a bit of a mess, but I too fear the effect on our resurgent party were Terry to get the nomination.

I'll be knocking doors most of the weekend, doing what I can. Hope there are many more like me out there knocking and talking in Fairfax, Arlington, Charlottesville, Richmond, and Hampton. We'll see on Tuesday.

I don't know what part of VA

I don't know what part of VA you're from, Tribunus, but Moran is like "Moran, who?" in Richmond, and nobody takes Terry McAuliffe seriously.  Everyone on the street is like "He's an assclown," even as black newspapers (really?) endorse McAuliffe.  I think Deeds just might pull this thing out, the first time I saw a Moran ad was about a week ago.  Deeds and McAuliffe have been running their ads in the Richmond area for a while now.


I went to law school with Terry McAuliffe 's wife, who is very nice.  But count me in the first row of the rooting section against him winning this election.

To me, McAuliffe symbolizes money, influence, ambition and skin-deep commitment to real issues.  This is not the image I want for the new Democratic party.


Hey Al, I'm interested in hearing what you think of Brian Schweitzer's endorsement of McAuliffe. He was quoted as saying that it was basically payback for McAuliffe's support for him in his earlier races, but to me, it's a huge disappointment coming from someone who A) seemed to represent a very different wing of the party than the Clinton/McAuliffe crowd and B) is unofficially throwing the weight of the Democratic Governor's Assocation behind a candidate before one has actually been nominated.


I'm in northern Virginia, and you're making my point:  the Moran campaign has had no fizz, and so he hasn't reached enough voters elsewhere in the state who don't regularly follow politics.  He is respected among people in the party for his hard work, but that's not enough.  Non-dynamic campaigns lead to non-voting for you.  So you're right that Deeds may pull this out.  I mean, here I am, a northern Virginia liberal Democrat who Moran represents in the State Senate, and I'm probably going to vote for Deeds. 


I have no horse in Virginia - looks like three mainstream/middle Dems to me - but in New York...Al, you may remember that Rep. Maloney was my first choice for the Clinton seat! (I think you were riding another political horse at the time).

Also, I'd take issue with the Clinton-Schumer machine talk around Maloney - after all, if it exists, she's in it. You may recall her fundraising for Hillary, her organizing/speechifying/surrogating for her candidate, and her Clinton super-delegate status.

Gillibrand has moved on several key issues, but a primary ain't a bad thing. So maybe you can dial up Rahm and see if Rep. Maloney can get the big ok from the "Obama machine."

(BTW, I know you're digging the Prez's glory days, but I'd love to see a Cuba post - I'm fascinated by what may/may not be happening on Obama's policy there).

Deeds represents more than Charlottesville

Deeds is my state senator.  He's from, and also represents, the part of his district that includes Highland County, a western-border Appalachian county. The district also includes un-Charlottesville-like Covington, and part of Rockbridge County. 

One of his more admirable positions is promoting legislation for non-partisan redistricting.  His district was gerrymandered to keep it safely Democratic, but with the result that there is nothing natural about it and contains two very different voting populations and requires truly burdensome travel to visit all sections regularly.

He and Moran were running for most of a year before Terry McAuliffe showed up on a "listening tour" a week before the presidential election.  McA's entry into the race has produced nothing good for the state but a few jobs for campaign activists. 

The encouragement given to the entrance of a corporate carpetbagger by the state party operatives who saw a "self-funder" is shameful, when there were already two highly qualified candidates with histories of work in the state party and experience with the state legislature.

If the race had been left to develop as it was, we would be guaranteed a good candidate whichever way it turned out. Now... we just have to hold our breaths and hope that turnout goes our way in a very low-turnout race.

By the way, about that turnout: double any percentage you read about turnout.  Virginia is a state with open primaries and non-partisan registration (i.e., you can't register as a Democrat or Republican even if you wish to).  So voters in a given primary are measured against the whole registered voter pool, which is ridiculous.  Also, the state and localities spend almost nothing to publicize the existence and date of a primary election, depending entirely on the parties and campaigns.  New voter registration cards were mailed to voters in my county ten days ago; think they bothered to slip in a note alerting anyone to next Tuesday's primary?

I think you're a bit hard on McAuliffe

Deeds is a conservative (though better than any Republican) and Moran has run a smug, negative more-progressive-than-you-despite-my-record-to-the-contrary campaign in the style of John Edwards. So I don't really buy the idea that there's a "progressive choice" in this race.

McAulifffe is a gadfly but he's honest about it and his heart is in the right place. He's learned a lot of lessons from the beating he received from the Obama campaign and put them to use in this campaign.

Finally, McAuliffe didn't get "overthrown" as DNC Chairman - he had already announced he was stepping down months before the 2004 election. He left the DNC in substantially better shape than he got it despite an incredibly bad political climate.

Blaming McAuliffe for Dem weakness is like blaming Michael Steele for the Republicans' current problems.

I don't know, Al

That Hawaiian shirt and bottle of rhum were pretty convincing.

@ Tom W.

Tom - That's what makes this Maloney thing so fascinating. A key member of the NY Schumer-Clinton machine goes so far as test the waters over bucking its choice - and that of the Governor - for Senate. Reports appear that the Obama organization is in on the "protect Gillibrand" actions too: Rahm reportedly called Steve Israel to keep him out of the race, Carolyn McCarthy suddenly gets taken out, and Maloney - even after Biden is reported dispatched to get her out of the way - is still maybe going for it.

That takes big brass ones! Political alliances are never permanent. There are times when somebody makes a move and it causes all kinds of realignments. This could be one of those times.

It's also quite possible that one of Secretary Clinton's conditions for doing the State job was that she got to pick her successor. That would be reasonable: leave NY to NY. It would explain the Rahm-Biden actions to clear the field.

But what isn't easily explained is the very public way the "no drama" team did it. That's not how it does things. It is almost as if it is going through the motions to keep one's word in letter but perhaps a little more lax in spirit: If what they basically accomplished was clearing the field so as to give Maloney a clean one-on-one shot at Gillibrand (one Maloney can win), I find that verrrrry interesting.

And if Maloney has the ovaries to get in the face of Schumer and the others, I guess I underestimated her. I'm really looking forward to seeing how this plays out. It's time for a little refreshing political bloodletting in the Democratic Party in New York. (And it would be doubly interesting if Cuomo then challenged Paterson: could rearrange the heavens over the Manhattan skyline!)


Well, I'm quite happy with some primaries in NY - real elections, after the predictable travesty we have in the city.

I agree on the alliances - always shifting. Not sure Maloney is a big White House fave actually. And from what I've heard, Gillibrand wasn't really a heavy Clinton pick - she was more about Paterson trying to balance his ticket with upstate votes. It backfired, though Gillibrand has been moderately successful in shiftingher own standing, rolling up old Clinton donors, and getting under Schumer's wing. Gillibrand-Maloney would be close, classic upstate-downstate, and would also split the Hillary backers. (Plus, it's pretty clear Hillary and Barack are pretty tight these days - one of the great personal/political stories of our time - allowing the primary may well be their joint consensus).

I think Cuomo will indeed primary Paterson. He says no and some African-American pols are trying to get him to pledge not to challenge the state's first black gov - but then again, in this era, those old-timey ethnic rules are also falling by the wayside...and given the banking scandals etc., NY needs more of a swash-buckling Gov, I think.

I also think there's a built-in conflict in the White House (perhaps intentional) between Obama's comfort with letting some battles happen and Emanuel's instinct to try and control the outcomes and run a very central political operation - it's funny, 'cos it mirrors the old school/new school of Chicago politics too. And as I said, I think it's by design - giving maximum choices to the Prez.

don't count moran out yet.

long time listener, first time caller.  moran's field seemed a bit disorganized until the last few weeks, but to my perception, things seem to be coming together, at least here in the stronghold of northern VA, and our turnout in a primary can handily swing the state -- kos references the 2005 lt. gov's primary of NoVa at 32 percent of statewide vote, but i prefer the 2006 senate primary -- 41ish percent --only because a governor's race is more akin to that in profile.   

but suffice it to say the best door-knockers in the people's republic of arlington are on the case.

and i'd be remiss if i didn't put in a plug for the VA delegate race i'm also calling and knocking for this weekend -- -- any local field hands/readers please come on out and give us a hand in the next four days.


deeply unserious

McAuliffe is profoundly unserious regarding policy, position, and planning.  I have never been convinced that he wants to be governor, just that he wants a platform to from which to spout his - well, his celebration of Terry McAuliffe.  He does not feed the serious need of the times, and presents a very unsavory vision of Democrats as willing to sell themselves to the highest bidder.

McAuliffe's Uncle?

I could be totally wrong about this but it seems to me that both McCain and McAuliffe have some similarities in their cavalier approach to the serious aspects of governing.  For a little fun (or pain?) here's the "delivering hot water to dyhydrated babies" speech in front of the pea green screen from exactly a year ago.  What a nightmare that would have been had this this old guy won. 

Skip to 6:40 for that line.



Bob McDonnell is No Moderate

Tribunus Plebis, you gave a pretty good analysis of the Democratic Primary, Brian Moran and Creigh Deeds and what they have to offer, as opposed to Terry McAuliffe.

And you are almost right about the Republican opponent, Bob McDonnell.  He is indeed, handsome, warm, and personable.  But to those who have lived in Virginia for a long time and are familiar with his political history, he is very far from a moderate.

In fact, he ran as a hard right, social conservative until very recently.  He even earned the moniker "Taliban Bob" because of his opposition to reproductive freedom and equal rights for the LGBT community.  He was an ardent supporter of the Marshall Newman amendment, AKA the Virginia Marriage Amendment, which defined marriage as between a man and a woman. It also stripped away the rights of gay people in Virginia to enter into private contacts with each other.  Essentially, that meant that even civil unions are illegal.  Indeed, two members of the same sex cannot even enter contracts so that one could have medical visitation if his partner is dying in a hospital.  It is one of the most far reaching and extreme anti-same sex marriage amendments in the nation.

Bob McDonnell is no moderate.  But he is trying to reinvent himself as one.  Whoever wins the primary will have a tough job convincing voters that McDonnell is a hard right extremist but that will be part of that candidate's job.

@ Anonymous is a Woman

Thanks, AW.  These days I'm never surprised to learn that a seemingly normal Republican has genuflected to the social-issue Taliban within the party.  It's actually more surprising when you see a moderate Republican having the courage to speak out against them.  I have a term for those moderate Republicans:  capitulationists.  They capitulate to the crazed fringe because they're afraid of losing some precious percentage of the dwindling Republican base if one of the Radio Loudmouths calls them out.  But what worries me more about the Conservative Taliban than how they've turned Republicans into exponents of irrationality is their tolerance for violence in the workplaces, campuses and now churches of America.  They're trying to extend permission for concealed weapons to all kinds of public and private space, they invent excuses for political violence from the right (such as the killing of Dr. Tiller in Kansas), and they do not condemn the vile, violent rhetoric being directed at the President of the United States.  If politicians or commenators on the left had used such rhetoric against Ronald Reagan, Democratic leaders like Tip O'Neill would have excoriated them.  This refusal to do anything to check the creeping growth of a culture of civil violence is an enormous political vulnerability, and whoever becomes the Democratic gubernatorial nominee should exploit it.

Bob McDonnell is definitely

Bob McDonnell is definitely no moderate. 

I was leaning toward McAuliffe but now plan to vote for Deeds, most likely.  I don't like the fact that McAuliffe is a bit of a gadfly, although he's not really all that different in background from Mark Warner, insofar as how he made his way into politics.  However, in a real local yokel issue, I realized how unsuited and/or unserious McAuliffe is when it comes to being governor.  A big sore spot in VA, and in particular, No. Va. is the fact that our elite public universities admit so many out of state students (including yours truly lo these many years ago).  The reason is clear: state funding of these universities has fallen even as the population has grown, and they basically make up the difference by charging out of state students more.  Deeds and Moran both have honestly framed the issue and stated that the way to deal with this is to come up with a plan to expand the number of in-state students without crippling the university's ability to meet its operating expenses.  McAuliffe's idea was to increas university funding by requiring the universities to more fully exploit their intellectual property (e.g., patents).  This is not only stupid and will hardly ensure a solution, but it just drives education further down the wrong road it's been going down since Ronald Reagan walked into office. 

It looks like Deeds will win handily

Over the half the vote is in and Deeds is beating both T-Mac and Moran 2-1.


There's a celebration going on at Ground Zero tonight! On to the next battle my friends.

The quality of Deeds that may make him a winner in the fall...

Although Moran represented me in the State Senate, and I found him to be responsible and a clear communicator, if a bit formulaic and predictable, I voted for Deeds, and here's why: As the gubernatorial race took shape, and McAuliffe bounded across the state like a large slobbering Labrador, Moran seemed to be punchless, until it was too late and he went negative on McAuliffe. So I began to lose confidence in Moran's ability to take on the right-wing authoritarians and Jeremiahs who will be gunning on behalf of McDonnell, whose country-club geniality masks very regressive positions.

Thus I voted for the only other guy in the race, Deeds. It struck me that he's got one quality that might look very good in relation to McDonnell, the Republican nominee: He's not airbrushed or over-rehearsed -- he lives in his own skin, visibly. There doesn't seem to be anything about this guy that's been packaged by a political consultant. So he'd be very well-advised to keep them all at arm's length, and make this a people's campaign to keep the governor's chair in the hands of someone who gets up every morning thinking about the service station owners, the car dealers, the barbers and the shipyard mechanics who built the state and want it governed in a sensible way.

@ Scott Knox

"The Giordano Bump"

I love it. Great to read the news this morning.


unpalatable narcissism

moran was on hardball when he said this:


This race is about me and the future of Virginia...


me, me, me. i was with him until he said this.  

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About Al Giordano


Publisher, Narco News.

Reporting on the United States at The Field.

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