Home 2013 races Shutdown: Obama Seals the Deal for McAuliffe

Shutdown: Obama Seals the Deal for McAuliffe


by Paul Goldman

When the President signed legislation late last night saving GOP Speaker John Boehner from his own caucus (the Republican House majority voted against the bill reopening the government and preventing default), Obama sealed the deal for Terry McAuliffe. Chris LaCivita, the Rasputin behind Ken Cuccinelli’s campaign strategy, had been saying for months that he had an “October surprise” guaranteed to win the election for his client.

Back in April, we dismissed the October surprise silliness from LaCivita, rejecting the other gurus claiming – you can look it up – that Cuccinelli was a “sure” winner if he could raise enough money to “go negative” against Terry. At the time, the Washington Post poll had Cuccinelli up double digits. We didn’t believe the polls. Moreover, as we have written, all this stuff about an October surprise, some Cuban Missile Crisis-type event, is the stuff of urban legend. It will no doubt be true someday, but by luck, not by design.

Still, we concede that yesterday Chris got his surprise. And it was in October. Except it wasn’t the kind of surprise he had in mind. Instead, the President signed a bill ending the latest Republican-inspired foolishness in Washington, while also sealing the deal for Terry McAuliffe, the next Governor of Virginia.

This isn’t to say that McAuliffe’s margin of victory will be the same as in the polls; it could be closer. Ralph Northam, of course, will win big. But there is still a chance, if Democrats don’t rally together, for our prediction of a sweep to fall short, if Mark Obenshain manages to squeak past Mark Herring. But THAT SHOULD NOT HAPPEN.


The president did his part by winning the chess match against Ted Cruz and his posse. Now, expect to hear leaks from the Cuccinelli camp that they were “catching up”, that their strategy was “really beginning to work,” but that the whole shutdown/default controversy stopped the AG’s “mo.” It will be a good spin, intended to take Chris and others “off the hook” for the loss.

But it will not be true. At best, what can be said is that these last few weeks froze the race, taking away whatever real power the Obamacare issue might have had for Cuccinelli by diverting attention to DC. The only good news for Cuccinelli: by Monday, the noise will clear from DC, and he will have two weeks to make his Obamacare/Medicaid expansion/negative attacks and whatever else been LaCivita’s closing strategy.

As a general rule, the GOP tends to gain at the end in Virginia — at least this is the data from the elections of Chuck Robb, Doug Wilder, George Allen, Jim Gilmore, Mark Warner and Bob McDonnell. Except for the Wilder campaign, the other winners basically had over 50% in the polls two weeks out, it was just a margin of victory difference. Wilder had a shaky lead at best, never over 50%, a classic equation to lose at the end to a GOP surge. It almost happened, so this is always a sobering stat.

The 2013 race is of course complicated by a third-party candidacy that for some reason is being promoted as a responsible third alternative by the media. My own gut is that it helps Terry, but at 200-proof, we write about politics, not our own choices. We don’t judge, we just analyze.

This, then, is the first year since 1965 when a Virginia GUV candidate can win with less than 50% of the vote. But this is more a complication for the AG’s race, not the GUV race, in terms of predicting the winner. As for the LG race, that was over the moment Jackson was nominated at the Virginia Republican convention last May.

Bottom line: The President just sealed the deal for Terry McAuliffe. Can Terry get most of the folks who backed Warner and Kaine? If he can, then a sweep seems a sure thing in this three-way race, along with a likely record percentage victory margin for a Democrat in the two-party era.

But whether it is over 50% or under 50%, the President, by outplaying the Cruz/Cuccinelli side of the GOP, did two things besides avoiding a debt default: 1) he put an end to the government shutdown; and 2) he shut down the Cuccinelli for Governor campaign.  


    Democratic candidate for Attorney General Mark Herring released the following statement regarding the bipartisan deal to end the Federal government shutdown:

    “I applaud yesterday’s bipartisan compromise that reopened the Federal government, avoided a default on our national debt and made clear that the Tea Party approach to governance is wrong for our country and for Virginia. The 16-day shutdown was an unnecessary setback for our nation’s and Virginia’s economic recovery that had real consequences for Virginia’s working families and veterans.

    “This episode underscores the need for leaders who are committed to bringing people together to find solutions to the challenges Virginia families face every day. My opponent, Mark Obenshain, sought and received the Virginia Tea Party endorsement because he agrees with them and he votes with them. One look at his record, particularly his opposition to the bipartisan transportation bill we passed this year, shows he would bring that same Tea Party approach to the job of Attorney General.

    “In this election, there is a clear difference between my pragmatic, results-oriented approach and that of the Tea Party candidate Mark Obenshain. As a state Senator, I have a proven record of working together with Democrats, Republicans and Independents to find solutions. As Attorney General, I will continue to put partisan politics aside and do what’s right for Virginians.”

  • maurystreet

    Alas, early projections of voter turnout suggest total could be below 50 percent.

    Terry has no coattails.

    If Mark Herring fails to step it up in the final two weeks, he could easily lose to Mark Obenshain, who has countered anti-female claims by having his wife and daughter speak for him. Mr. Herring needs the most help, but so far has done little to stir the base to support him for the crucial office of attorney general.