by Paul Goldman
Historically, the education issue, not the jobs issue, has been the big winner for Democrats running statewide in Virginia. Is 2013 shaping up the same way? Yes it is: in 2013, education is going to be Job #1 her in Virginia.
Why? Here is my calculation. In 2012, three things can happen to set up the 2013 GUV race.
(1) Jobs don’t come back and the President loses in 2012. Very bad news for Democrats, setting up the Republicans to get credit for making the economy turn around in 2013. Fair or unfair, the guy in the White House takes the hit, goes with the territory.
(2) Jobs come back, both the national GOP and the President get credit, as does Governor McDonnell. This may also be unfair, but the President will have cut some deals to get legislation, etc. and thus he is helped by staying bipartisan through 2012.
(3) Jobs don’t come back, but the President wins anyway.
All three scenarios in terms of the jobs issue play to the advantage of VA Republicans in 2013. If the economy and jobs come back, then things look good in Virginia, McDonnell’s image goes up, and we are in a Robb/Allen/Warner situation: where the approval rating of a Governor of one party elected to replace the previous Governor of another party is high. This leads voters to give the Governor a “second term” by electing his hand-picked choice. So, a jobs comeback – which we badly need, regardless – helps Democrats in 2012 and Republicans in 2013.
But if the jobs don’t come back, the Democrats will take the blame since we control the White House through 2012 at least. Even if Obama loses, the public will still blame him as they still blame Bush (which is one reason Obama wins next year even the unemployment rate is high).
SO THIS IS WHY I SAY:
Education is the issue that elected Robb/Baliles/Wilder/Warner/Kaine in terms of giving them the user friendly socially moderate/fiscally conservative image that appeals to the key suburban swing voters. Winning the education issue has been the key for Democrats winning the Big House.
Right now, Bolling and Cuccinelli are giving us the education issue. If you study the statistics, the education issue is ripe for the right Democrat. In large part, that’s because the public is in change mode on education, as we are now a decade and more out from the big “testing reforms,” yet the data indicate we might be losing ground as opposed to just standing still.
Robb had teacher salaries. Baliles actually had the GOP hot on teaching creationism and opposing sex-ed (GOP went way right that year on the issue). Wilder had his life story, which was based on the value of education. Warner had community colleges. And Kaine had an easy comparison with “death penalty Jerry,” who totally blew the issue.
So far, Governor McDonnell has tried to make charter schools his education issue, but that isn’t going to cut it, especially after the new standards are in place. As President Obama has pointed out, they are going to show that a whole lot of schools can’t cut the tougher markers.
Net, net: Right now, on the state level, the education issue is UP FOR GRABS — no one has it; I have never seen such a jump ball before. The candidate on either side that captures the education issue will have a big leg up in 2013. Indeed, watch for Kaine to use it in 2012 to head off Allen, who used it big to win Governor and then to upset Robb for the Senate.
Right now, Allen doesn’t have a clue on education, while Kaine is getting ready to take the issue. The Timster is far too smart to leave that opening hanging out there.