Health care decision: McDonnell biggest loser, Allen; McAuliffe biggest winners

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    by Paul Goldman

    Governor McDonnell admitted it today: He was the big loser when Judge Henry Hudson gave Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli a win this Monday in KC and his Sunshine Band’s crusade against what they call “Obamacare.”

    What, you missed it? Naturally, McD didn’t call a press conference dressed up like Roberto Duran and declare “No Mas, No Mas”. But the admission, or perhaps more correctly a decision to accept reality and play Tonto, was implicit today when GUV McD made his surprise announcement backing at least part of the AG’s latest crusade, this one to remove Virginia from a key provision in the Reagan-Bush extension of a law signed it back in 1982, the Voting Rights Act.

    Since then, over the last 28 years, no statewide elected official, in either party, had considered the situation to be a problem until Kenny Boy decided he knew best. It took Governor McD all of 48 hours since the Hudson decision to agree, even though this “problem” escaped his attention while serving for 4 years as AG prior to Mr. Cuccinelli and many years before that in the General Assembly.  

    All aboard! Welcome Governor to the Republican bus, AG clearly now in total control of the GOP politics here in the Commonwealth. To paraphrase one of the great Broadway songs, “What Kenny wants, Kenny gets”  [better when Lola does it, but she ain’t running the show here in Richmond].

                 

    But neither is the Governor: the only reason he was being interviewed on national TV earlier this week was due to the fact Mr. Cuccinelli – at least yet – is still restricted by Einstein’s laws so the AG can’t be in two places at the same time, in this particular instance on two TV channels speaking live. So the folks who tried but were late booking the Sunshine Band for the show had to settle for McDonnell and his Second Fiddlers. I think they could open for KC and Sunshine Band on their national tour don’t you?

    Having known a few Governors in my time,I can assure you this situation has got folks

    steamed in the McDonnell Administration and they are desperate to turn it around. It is one of the reasons they rushed out with “credit card” Bob’s $3 billion dollar borrow-and-spend transportation mistake, 6,000% worse than his 47 million dollar’s worth of red ink for the now failed ABC-1 plan. They are trying to be seen as the folks in charge, with the dominating agenda as has been true for Governors until now.

    However, Hudson’s ruling cemented whatever had not already been set in stone: Ken Cuccinelli is running the Virginia Republican Party and for now, he is being kind enough to let Governor McDonnell come along for the ride. Frankly, it is quite generous of the AG, because he could tell the Governor to get off and find your transportation, which as we know is not McDonnell’s strong suit right now.

    But if McDonnell, the first Governor to have to play second fiddle, is thus the biggest loser, then the biggest winners are Republican Senate hopeful George Allen and Democratic 2013 gubernatorial front-runner Terry McAuliffe. Why?

    Easy: As Ken Cuccinelli becomes the 800, 900, 1000 pound Gorilla of VA GOP politics, this has, as Newton pointed out, an opposite reaction among those who believe he is the Huey Long of the Old Dominion, someone who can not be trusted with additional power. This could be totally wrong, but in politics, perception is often reality: and for the moderate GOP and Independent voter, they are likely to feel there needs to be someone who can stop the AG from gaining more power.

    McDonnell, as indicated above, is out; these moderate types realize McD is desperate to stay on Kenny’s good side. So right now, this leaves two guys who are on the playing field and closest to the action.

    KC has not ruled out a run for the Senate in 2012. As former Senator Allen is discovering, those who most admire KC in the GOP are lukewarm to the former GOP Governor, who they believe should be given a gold watch and sent to a Republican retirement home. Thus, by default, Governor Allen has actually become a favorite of the very same “moderates” who not long ago considered him far too conservative!

    Ain’t politics something? Right now, Mr. Allen is the only Republican who could stop KC from getting the party’s Senate nomination. My sense is that Mr. Allen doesn’t quite yet appreciate the many new friends he has around the state, remembering them as folks who wouldn’t talk his call not long ago.

    But KC has changed all that: suddenly, George Allen has people who want to make him look tougher so KC will decide to forgo any Senate primary.

    However, as for 2013, these same folks know that Lt. Governor Bill Bolling is no match for KC in a fight to win the party’s gubernatorial nomination. As they say in the sporting world, there isn’t a boxing commission in America who would sanction a fight between Cuccinelli and Bolling no matter how many doctors were willing to sign a waivers for the LG. Even Don King would have guilt problems arranging that fight.

    So the only person standing between Kenny Boy and the Governor’s Mansion will be the Democratic nominee. Terry McAuliffe, the favorite for the nod in 2009 based on the early polls, only to be aced out by Creigh Deeds, is giving every indication of wanting to try again in 2013. He’s smart, wealthy, and a savvy national pol: but can he raise the level of his game in terms of Virginia politics?

    In my view he can, but it will prove harder for him than say for Robb or Warner, two guys who were also initially seen as less than 100% DNA Virginians. Personality wise, both Robb and Warner were more classically Virginian as politicians, Terry is a far more “hail fellow, well met” kind of personality, and his political resume is far more nationally focused than state focused.

    On the other hand, he is seen as a “can do guy” and this is something the public is likely to find in short supply by 2013. So I don’t see 2009 as anything but Terry having to learn the ropes a little, the way MarkNotJohn Warner lost in his first statewide race to JohnNotMark Warner.

    Bottom line: Terry McAuliffe has the ability to be a very formidable candidate if can undergo the same learning curve as Robb and Warner. He has every incentive to do it since right now, he is the favorite to win the nomination, meaning it will be time well spent.

    Moreover, as indicated, there are a lot of people who probably would not have voted for Terry in 2009 against McDonnell who will back him and give big money in a race against Cuccinelli. Timing is important in politics, often times it is the deciding factor as it can be in business.

    In fact, the case can be made that for Terry, a guy like Cuccinelli is the best possible opponent. For this group, Terry is never going to be their ideal choice. So in that regard, it will come down to which of the two can make the best possible case under the circumstances.

    Cuccinelli, as an ideologue, is rigid: Terry, as a business guy, is pragmatic. That should give McAuliffe a big advantage all other things being equal, with those in the middle, since they fear rigidity in a politician, thinking of him as “Buzz” in the famous drag racing scene in “Rebel Without a Cause.”

    So far, Cuccinelli has proven to be the far better campaigner, which is a very valuable skill. But Terry can raise that part of his game rather easily if he wants.

    In summary: McDonnell is the biggest loser and so there he sits, testing the strings on his fiddle. George Allen and Terry McAuliffe the biggest winners, provided they figure it out and take advantage.