(UPDATE: See the comments section for my analysis of the endorsement, which was published a little while ago. – promoted by lowkell)
With just over 2 weeks to go until primary day in the Virginia 8th CD Democratic race to succeed Jim Moran, it’s likely that we’ll be seeing an endorsement shortly (this weekend would be my guess) from the Washington Post. Before it comes out, I just wanted to share a few thoughts to help put it in perspective.
First, to put it mildly, the Washington Post editorial board is not the editorial board of the Watergate years. Since then this is a board which has moved far from its once liberal moorings towards the center or even center right in some cases. For instance, the Post has become super-hawkish on foreign policy (e.g., Ukraine Syria), and way off base on energy policy (e.g., they’re pro-Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, also pro-Cove Point LNG export terminal).
Here in Virginia, the Post has long supported Republicans it thinks are “moderate” (a magic word for the Post, whatever on earth it means), while opposing any Democrat they believe is too “progressive,” “liberal” or – gasp! – “populist.” For instance, the Post for years endorsed supposed “moderate” Republicans like Frank Wolf (over Judy Feder) and Tom Davis for Congress, as well as Republican Jeannemarie Devolites Davis for State Senate (over Democrat Chap Petersen) and Republican Jill Holtzman Vogel (best known now for “transvaginal ultrasound” legislation) over Democrat Karen Schultz. Let’s also not forget that the Post also endorsed corporate lobbyist and conservative Democrat Harris Miller over the more libertarian/populist Jim Webb in the 2006 Democratic primary (the Post bashed what it believed to be Webb’s “somewhat strident populism on trade policy [which] tends toward xenophobic sloganeering and business-bashing”). Finally, the Post endorsed the most conservative Democrat in the 2009 Virginia gubernatorial primary, Creigh Deeds, over the more liberal (although certainly not super liberal by any means) Brian Moran and Terry McAuliffe. In 2013, the Post endorsed “moderate” Republican Tom Rust over superb Democratic challenger Jennifer Boysko, as well as Tea Partier Jim LeMunyon and raging homophobe/right-wingnut Mark Dudenhefer (even though the Post acknowledged that Dudenhefer “was one of a handful of lawmakers to speak out against an otherwise highly qualified judicial nominee who happened to be gay”) for House of Delegates. Ugh.
By the way, I’ve been referring to the “Post editorial board,” but the reality is that when it comes to Virginia, it’s really just one guy who makes the endorsements. That would be Lee Hockstader, a long-time foreign correspondent for whom Virginia politics is apparently a foreign country. I mean, seriously, when was the last time anyone’s seen Hockstader at a political event – debate, JJ dinner, whatever – here in Virginia? Personally, I’ve covered hundreds of events over the years (not to mention meeting with dozens of candidates and elected officials for interviews and informal discussions), and the last time I saw Hockstader was at a Webb rally in Arlington back in 2006 (again, he endorsed Miller in that election, so he clearly wasn’t impressed with Webb’s grassroots appeal or message). Also, I’ve heard over the years that the endorsement process for the Post isn’t exactly the most thorough or rigorous, but is basically more of “we know who we want to endorse, why spend the effort finding out about the other candidates?”
Finally, as I wrote last October, I’d just add that I have trouble understanding why Virginia Democrats – particularly challengers – like to tout the “Washington Post endorsement.” For starters, it’s really just one guy (Lee Hockstader) who spends minimal (if any) time or energy covering Virginia politics. Also, there’s not much evidence, other than perhaps the Creigh Deeds endorsement in 2009, that the Post has any “juice” in Virginia elections at this point. Regardless, it’s likely that Lee Hockstader (er, the Post) will make an endorsement in the 8th CD Democratic primary soon enough. I don’t know who they WILL endorse, and that person could end up being a perfectly fine member of Congress (note that the ONLY one in the current field I couldn’t imagine supporting would be Lavern Chatman, and that’s because of horrendous past on ethics and support for Teapublican Pat McCrory in North Carolina) but one thing’s for sure: if Hockstader et al believe (for whatever reason, correctly or incorrectly) that the person is too “progressive,” “liberal,” or any other synonym for those you can think of for those deadly (in the Post’s center-right worldview) adjectives, it would be a massive shock if Hockstader/the Post endorsed them.