The Washington Post’s coverage of Virginia politics has been thin, spotty, and lame (e.g., all kinds of errors of fact, analysis, whatever) for years now. Today was no exception, with the silly article, In Northern Virginia, a GOP congresswoman already on the run. Why do I say the article was silly? Here’s an excerpt from an online conversation I just had with a Northern Virginia Dem super-politico, to give you an idea what I’m saying.
[NOVA Dem Super-Politico, “NDSP,” sends me the link to the story]
Me: “Yeah, silly article”
NDSP: “Yeah I stopped reading at the suggestion that Kathleen Murphy would have a chance”
Me: “The Post simply has no clue about Virginia politics or much of anything that I can determine. But seriously? Comstock in trouble? Puhleeze.”
NDSP: “They don’t mention the most important factor… Possible redistricting”
Me: “Right, that too.”
NDSP: “But naturally dems are going to dump a couple million down the drain”
Me: “Ugh.” That’s what Dems did in 2014: utter, complete, total waste of money. Broadcast TV, might as well just take your money, light a match, set it on fire, then piss on it, then set the pissed-on embers on fire just for good measure. LOL”
NDSP: “Yeah over 2 million. WTF?”
The conversation proceeded from there, with yours truly mostly repeated my argument that broadcast TV in the super-expensive DC media market, trying to target likely/persuadable voters in one CD, with crappy ads no less, is almost criminal. Especially given that in order to afford to waste millions of dollars making/running those TV ads, the candidate is basically locked in a room for months dialing for dollars, instead of…I dunno, actually meeting voters?
Anyways, back to the Post article. First off, keep in mind that this is a district won by Mitt Romney in 2012, by a point. In that same election, Frank Wolf won his reelection race by 20 points (58.4%-38.6%), which was fairly standard for Wolf over the years. So, the thinking was that only when Wolf finally retired would Democrats have a shot. That theory was tested in 2014, and Barbara Comstock not only won, she nearly matched Frank Wolf’s huge victory margins over the years, winning huge (56.5%-40.4%) over a Democrat who was well liked in his part of Fairfax County, and was extremely well funded (although as mentioned above, his campaign basically pissed all that money away). So, based on all that, what evidence is there that Comstock is in for a “tough race” in 2016? According to the Post:
The district Comstock represents is notoriously independent, swinging back and forth in the past few elections. Republicans have only a slight edge, and in a hotly contested presidential race, Democrats can overcome it.
Turnout in midterm elections favors Republicans; in a presidential year, Democrats do better. Virginia will be a key battleground for both parties next year. Hillary Rodham Clinton, the leading contender for the Democratic nomination, is already recruiting volunteers in the state. She also has assembled a campaign team with many ties to the commonwealth.
Along with the presidential race, Democrats hope that an intense effort in this year’s state legislative elections will draw out new voters in Loudoun and Prince William counties. Two Republicans are retiring in Democratic-leaning state House districts in the area; so is a longtime Democratic state senator.
“We have many competitive races that touch what is now the 10th District that will give whoever runs in the future . . . a great leg up,” said Brian Zuzenak, who runs Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s political action committee.
I mean, where do I even start with this nonsense? First, this district has NOT swung “back and forth in the past few elections” for the U.S. House of Representatives, but has been solid “R” forever, basically. Second, this district became more Republican in 2011’s redistricting, so it’s not particularly accurate to compare it to the pre-2011 district. Third, Republicans have far more than a “slight edge” in the district when it comes to the House of Representatives, based on all historical data. Fourth, I have no idea what the fact that Hillary Clinton’s campaign team has Virginia ties has to do with the chances of a Democrat beating Barbara Comstock next year, but my guess is it won’t make any difference at all. Fifth, what on earth do this year’s state legislative races have to do with next year’s 10th CD Congressional contest, as they are completely different electorates (this year will be the lowest turnout of the four-year cycle, while next year will be through the roof)? Finally, how any of that gives the possible 2016 Democratic nominee for House of Representatives against Barbara Comstock in the 10th CD “a great leg up” is utterly beyond me, but I don’t buy it for a second.
Having said all that, it IS possible for a Democrat to give Comstock a run for her money in 2016. But first, let’s see what happens with the redistricting lawsuit, as the NOVA Democratic Super Politico pointed out (but which the Post article didn’t mention). Let’s also see if Democrats are able to recruit a super-strong candidate, as well as a super-strong campaign team (e.g., one that does NOT run a cookie-cutter campaign that relies heavily on broadcast TV and embarrassing, unprofessional, demoralizing emails from the DCCC). Then, let’s see if Comstock makes some serious mistakes, like first off taking this race for granted — a mistake which she clearly is not making (super-smart/super-competitive politician that she is, one wouldn’t except her to make any unforced errors, and so far she hasn’t). Finally, let’s see if Democrats can do well this year in Loudoun County Board races (not looking good right now, based on everything I’m hearing), Fairfax County Board races, Virginia General Assembly races, etc. If most/all of those things happen, then it’s possible Democrats could seriously threaten Comstock’s reelection. If not, they won’t, no matter how much the Post wants to create a “competitive election” narrative where none currently exists.
P.S. One thing I do agree with, strongly, from this article is that the longer Comstock stays in office, the more entrenched she will get in that office. I’d basically argue that if we don’t beat her in 2016, she could be there for a while (or worse/more likely, she could run for U.S. Senate, Governor, heck even President in 2020 – shuddderrrr).