Maybe it was an unguarded moment but a Mercer tweet last night revealed a lot. The decks are cleared for a McAuliffe gubernatorial run. But nothing portends smooth sailing. Creigh Deeds picked up no wind from Obama. Tim Kaine is barely drafting. There’s little reason to believe Terry will benefit…unless.
“This is our opportunity to get some payback and to show them that this isn’t a movement, this is about governing. We’re here to stay. We are the ‘New Majority’ and its time that they get used to it.” – Senator Don McEachin at the 7th District Convention
The conventional wisdom that 2009 was the result of a disillusioned electorate (an electorate that expected immediate change and economic recovery) is absolute drek or balderdash or a more colorful word I would have used in the Marine Corps. Those of us raised in the old south have the embedded memory of a bipolar Democratic Party; a party whose statewide politics and national politics were distinct and different. A Party that in 1964 could convince the same demographic to prefer both Orval Faubus and Lyndon Baines Johnson. Or maintain its stranglehold on statewide offices despite yielding the national contest to Goldwater. This isn’t your father’s Democratic Party.
There is good cause that President Obama’s organization never counted on the Democratic Party of Virginia (DPVA). There really isn’t anything behind the curtain. It is an organization designed to support incumbents; a self-licking ice cream cone. It relies on the repugnance of the alternative rather than an appeal to shared values. This worked well when the other side offered up Kilgores and Gilmores in the era of a bumbling Bush, but the Republicans are no longer cooperating. Republicans staying home was more important than the Democratic candidate carrying the day. That won’t work for Obama and it won’t work for Terry McAuliffe.
The Republicans have a state Chairman who is driven, showing up at every turn and event; augmented from time to time by two (count ’em) former national party chairmen. There is a new Republican drive to leverage social networking. The DPVA has a state chairman who just doesn’t demonstrate much energy. It has leadership that fears association with a President who carried and will carry the state again. The city and county committees are often exclusive clubs designed to protect turf and can only effectively contribute when an outside organization like Obama’s is present to lean on. Virginia Democrats must win with Obama’s ‘New Majority.’ Here’s the deal: the DPVA has no ground game without the grassroots and for now, that is OFA. OFA is gone after November. So yes, Terry needs a new gameplan. But it has little to do with Ken Cuccinelli or Bill Bolling or anything about the Republican Party of Virginia.
First, Terry McAuliffe, without pandering, must be identified with, recognized by, and earn the loyalty of the ‘New Majority’ that is going to reelect B. H. Obama to a second term. There is infinitely more payoff visiting an OFA office and building relations with genuine members of the grassroots than spending time with a local committee. Local committees have no connection with and cannot turn out the Obama demographic. That demographic was AWOL in 2009 and could go missing in 2013 too. Terry doesn’t need to raise a single dime for the President; reserve that effort for himself and the lethargic DPVA (though he should be haunted by the memory of the local committee that didn’t have the sense to give the low sign before he offered a too generous contribution to an embarrassment of a candidate). Next, he must get beyond the “playing well with others” (and contrition) stage of the new guy on the block. It has kept him from gaining statewide recognition and respect as a Virginia Democratic leader. Finally, it is understandable that he would be comfortable with former supporters of Hillary Clinton, but invariably, DPVA’s Hillary supporters were path of least resistance bandwagon types who also climbed aboard the Harris Miller train wreck and have little or no connection to the grassroots; they are the establishment looking for the next set of coattails and couldn’t lead sailors to liberty on the first port call of a deployment. This isn’t to say jettison Hillary; it is to say look askance at the sycophants looking for a free ride.
Today, right now, Terry’s best shot at becoming Governor is a Romney victory. If Romney wins, Terry has a cakewalk to Richmond. That’s a really bad bet. The better bet is that Terry embraces the ‘New Majority’ and folds it into a resurgent DPVA.
“Big changes” coming? They’d best.