( – promoted by lowkell)
by Paul Goldman
Sure, it could just be some “reverse psychology” or part of a clever “your momma” mind game. But to what end though? The recent remarks by Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (posted on YouTube by Rick Sincere), concerning – or more accurately a seeming lack of concern – regarding a three-way race for governor got me thinkin’ the seemingly unthinkable. Could Ken Cuccinelli actually want a 3-way race for governor?
There is no logic for Cuccinelli to comment on the three-way race right now. Nothing he can say is going to have a positive effect on Bolling. Do you wave a red flag at a bull in order to make him less likely to fight? Perhaps Hemingway got it all wrong?
So I ask: Might the presumptive Republican nominee’s campaign team actually want a three-way race this November? Ask UVA Professor Larry Sabato and the other certified political gurus in academia here in Virginia, and they will unanimously opine: an independent gubernatorial candidacy by Republican LG Bill Bolling will be a net negative for Mr. Cuccinelli. This conclusion will not be primarily based on the “second choice” indications pro-Bolling voters are giving to pollsters when asked who they would support in a two-way race. Rather, the gurus will focus on the difference in how a three-way race plays out over the ensuing months as compared to the normal head-to-head contest. All things being equal, a candidacy by a sitting Republican Lt. Governor in a race between a Republican AG and a qualified, politically smart Democrat who isn’t in jail, certified crazy, or plagued by scandal, plays out as hurting Cuccinelli when played over and over on X-Box (whatever the gaming level).
Or does it? Cuccinelli, in his remarks, suggests his camp has the contrary view. Admittedly, the AG didn’t expressly state this contra view. But let’s logically dissect his comments.
First we ask: Consider Cuccinelli’s comments saying he wasn’t sure a Bolling candidacy would hurt him in the final analysis. But you say: “Paul, of course Cuccinelli is going to say that.” I agree, what else can he publicly say at this point? But that is my whole point: Bolling doesn’t give a damn what Cuccinelli says on this subject. So why say something which, in effect, makes it impossible for Cuccinelli to now say a Bolling candidacy is nothing but a “spoiler.” The AG is now on record saying Bolling might actually hurt McAuliffe. Does this make Republicans more prone to pressure Bolling not to run? It doesn’t.
But you say: “Yeah, but it might pressure anti-Cuccinelli power brokers to think twice about backing Bolling if they can live with Terry.”
My response: Those folks don’t believe a word the AG says anyway. All the AG has done is to force Bolling to call his backers and tell them not to listen to Cuccinelli. This draws Bolling closer to running, not the other way around. If Cuccinelli doesn’t want Bolling to run, how does that help?
Next, Cuccinelli said Bolling can not make an intellectually honest argument as to why the LG feels compelled to run. As the AG pointed out, the two of them had very similar records in the State Senate. In effect, Cuccinelli is calling out Bolling and his effort to be the “moderate independent voice” as nothing but an intellectual fraud.
So I say again: Cuccinelli is basically daring Bolling to run. It is a “your momma” move. On the B-Ball court, you didn’t do a “your momma” except to enrage your opponent. How does enraging Bolling make it less likely he will run? I don’t see it.
To which you say: “Cuccinelli is telling Bolling backers that the LG will not wash as some “moderate” alternative in some mystical political universe.” To which I respond: All Cuccinelli has done now is to give Democrats a way to drive people off Bolling and towards Terry. Under the Cuccinelli view of things, two Republican conservatives, splitting the conservative vote, somehow don’t give McAuliffe an advantage over a two-way race. Does anyone anywhere not under a doctor’s care believe such a thing? Apparently, smoking weed is already legal in VA.
My conclusion: Cuccinelli knows his comments will not “soothe the savage beast” as the saying goes. Quite the opposite. Having studied this matter enough, I can state with certainty: if Cuccinelli truly feared Bolling’s candidacy, he would be refusing to comment, afraid of saying the wrong thing. You don’t have to take Professor Sabato’s renown government class to learn Poli Sci 101, with all due respect to Larry.
I defy you to look at the chess board and give me a strategy that says waving a red flag in front of Bolling makes him more likely to get out of the race. True, it might make no difference, but that means the risk vs reward equation provides Cuccinelli with NO REWARD for speaking out vs A POSSIBLE NEGATIVE REACTION MAKING BOLLING MORE LIKE TO RUN, for whatever reason.
What kind of political strategy is based on doing things that won’t benefit you but might hurt you on a net-net basis? NONE. Thus, there is only one reason for Cuccinelli to discuss a three-way race at this point: He and his camp honestly, really, take-it-to-the bank don’t believe Bolling’s candidacy will hurt them.
This may be what the polls say now. But if Cuccinelli is right, that Bolling’s image remake will fail, then it defies political math to think the AG is not worse off in a three-way as opposed to a two-way race. This may turn out to be the exception that proves the political rule,
I am not smart enough to know. But there is a reason why any sensible strategy person would be advising Cuccinelli on ways his camp might persuade Bolling not to run. Instead of following a strategy which says a Bolling candidacy is of no moment, intellectually dishonest, and might even help Cuccinelli defeat McAuliffe when all things have been said and done.
So I think we need to take the AG, aka Clark Gable, at his word: “Frankly Scarlett, I don’t give a damn.”