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.