When I first heard the news that Tom Perriello was considering running for Governor next year, I was, like many here in the community, was skeptical. I have been a strong supporter of Tom throughout his campaign and would love to see him run for Governor, I simply was surprised by the news and at first believed it too good to be true. I've heard some dismiss the rumors as being put out by simply one blogger, although a very well connected and respected blogger. But the media coverage is increasing and seems closer to Tom himself now. Today there was a new Perriello speculation story out, this time from Buzzfeed, showcasing Obama's visit to campaign for Perriello in 2010.
And now Nate Cohen of The New Republic brings a dash of reality to the idea that Terry should be seen as a frontrunner, even if Tom gets in, and tears down several arguments regarding Terry's supposed appeal.
Ultimately, McAuliffe enters the '13 contest without any proven base of support. That's not surprising, since McAuliffe has never held public office and candidates seeking a higher office often attract lasting support from voters in their home districts. Still, in a low-turnout primary familiarity and past loyalty can make a difference and McAulifffe doesn't have either. Indeed, a recent Quinnipiac poll showed that 65 percent of Democratic voters had no opinion of McAuliffe.
So far, most speculation about a possible challenger centers on Tom Perriello, a former representative from Virginia’s 5th congressional district and the president of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Recent reports indicate that Perriello is mulling a bid and it’s not hard to see why. Perriello has solid liberal credentials and earned the support of activists for his insistence on defending the Obama administration’s policies during his failed reelection bid in a relatively conservative congressional district. Perriello's narrow defeat in the 2010 midterm is considered one of the more impressive electoral performances of the cycle.
If Perriello challenged McAuliffe, the former DNC chairman would be in a difficult position. While McAuliffe's financial resources and support from the Clintonistas make him a more formidable candidate than his polling numbers, those same assets were only worth 26 percent of the vote four years ago. McAuliffe remains vulnerable, and Perriello, who has a reputation for authenticity and knows how to deploy a populist message, seems well-suited to capitalize. Perriello's appeal with liberal activists would be an asset, since they make-up the core of the Democratic primary electorate in a low-turnout election. With McAuliffe potentially weak in northern Virginia and Perriello strong in western Virginia (he hails from Charlottesville, and his old district in west-central Virginia represents 8 percent of the primary electorate), McAuliffe's ability to perform well among black voters in eastern Virginia might be the decisive question. But there's plenty of footage of Obama praising Perriello, and little reason to assume that Perriello would be weak in the eastern part of the state.
I don't need to explain here Perriello's progressive bona fides. The growing media coverage does make me believe that there is more to this speculation that simple rumor. Today, the blogger that seems to have started all this pointed out a hereto overlooked advantage of a Perriello candidacy.
What's happening in Danville is actually very similar to what is happening in Henrico County near Richmond, and Prince William County in Northern Virginia as well as many other localities in Virginia. For the last two decades the minority population in those areas has had a dramatically higher birth rate than the white population. What that creates is a “demographic tidal wave” as Sean Connaughton once called it. You can see it from looking at demographic stats of these school systems versus the senior populations in these localities. The babies from twenty years ago are now voters, and are starting to have their own kids that will be creating an even larger tidal wave in coming years.
It's worth noting that Democrats have yet to be successful in turning out those voters in many elections that were non-Presidential so far- with the exception of Tom Perriello in 2010 who got large turnout in Danville and was able to win a 16.3% margin of victory over Robert Hurt here even in the awful political environment of 2010 for Democrats. Compare that to the federal midterm from 2006- when George Allen narrowly defeated Jim Webb in Danville even with a strong national Democratic wind at Webb's back. With Perriello considering a run for Governor this year, Danny Marshall has got to be pulling for Democrats to stick with Terry McAuliffe for Governor- as this district could flip with Perriello on top of the ticket.
Danville isn't the only community that is part of the “demographic wave” that reelected Barack Obama. Perriello has shown that he knows the importance of mobilizing these new members of the Democratic coalition. In addition to his progressive politics, can Perriello also offer a people powered campaign that would help down ticket candidates?