by Paul Goldman
The modern two-party political age began in 1969 here in Virginia. The dominant segregationist Democratic Party held sway for decades, until Linwood Holton became the first GOP statewide officer holder in modern times, winning the governorship. Since then, Republicans have always held at least one of the five offices elected statewide: 2 U.S. Senators plus Governor, Lt. Governor and Attorney General. As I was the first to predict last month, all signs point to this coming to an end on November 5, with the first Democratic statewide ticket sweep since 1989.
We will know more this Saturday, when Cuccinelli and McAuliffe meet in their first high-profile debate. The encounter figures to start with questions about Republican Governor Bob McDonnell…and end with statements concerning the First Family of Virginia’s travails.
Terry’s job in the debate is easy: Don’t say anything foolish; indeed, stay comfortably within the 45 yard lines of the basic Democratic pitch. He doesn’t even need to win the debate; things are that bad for Cuccinelli and his GOP posse.
It is July. The AG and the GOP have therefore been running for Governor full out about a year now. In this period, the AG has produced not a single good campaign day. His campaign has no theme. He is trying to find some happy medium which doesn’t exist for him. He has wasted 75% of the total Governor’s race. All he has to show for it is the following: an alienated GOP LG (Bill Bolling); an unqualified, elevator-don’t-stop-at-every-floor candidate for LG (EW Jackson); and now the most disgraced Governor (Bob McDonnell) in the history of the state – at least in modern times.
This trifecta of political baggage presents a huge problem for a favored candidate: it is a fatal weight for an underdog like Cuccinelli unless the AG radically ups the level of his game. Meaning: Right now, the Cuccinelli ticket is headed for a wipeout in November.
This would, in turn, leave the GOP without a single person in any of the five state elected offices for the first time in over two generations. And it gets worse: Mark Warner is a sure winner next year, short of a miracle. The President carried Virginia both in 2008 and 2012. Net, net: This is the worst statewide performance for Republicans since the days of segregation.
True, it is only July, and “stuff happens” all the time in politics. Terry lost badly in a primary four years ago, so he isn’t a proven vote getter yet. And then you have the yada, yada, yada, of the GOP, all backed up by millions of dollars in negative ads against Terry, et al.
My response: Short of political malpractice by the Dems, the VA GOP has put itself in an electoral straight jacket, needing Houdini to get out. Unless the Governor resigns, he is an albatross all the way. Perhaps Cuccinelli has a brilliant strategy to escape that dead weight, perhaps the Governor will resign, perhaps a meteor will hit on election day but only in Democratic areas. Anything is possible depending on your definition of possible. But it is like the term “reasonable doubt”: it doesn’t include any doubt, only what is reasonable.
SO: Given the less-than-excellent Cuccinelli campaign to date, and given the known Bolling/Jackson/McD/Mrs. McD/Star Scientific mess, is it reasonable to believe that the GOP will magically run the innovative, clever campaign needed to win? The answer: NO. This should be clear this Saturday. As Bob McDonnell goes, so goes the GOP ticket this fall.
That might not be fair, of course. But, as Newton said, a body in motion tends to stay in motion in the same direction unless acted upon by a superior force. So, unless the VA GOP knows something about physics that is unknown to the rest of us, they are headed for an historic fall if they can’t right the ship in a relatively short time.