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Top 12 Reasons Why Tom Perriello Lost to Ralph Northam on June 13

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I’ve been trying to figure out why Tom Perriello, who public polls showed neck-and-neck with (or even ahead of) Ralph Northam, lost the Virginia Democratic gubernatorial primary by a substantial, 56%-44% margin on June 13.  Here are my top dozen reasons; please feel free to add your own in the comments section.

1. Nearly unanimous endorsements from Virginia Democratic heavy hitters (Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, AG Mark Herring, pretty much every other Democrat holding elective office in Virginia). I agree with these comments in the Washington Post’s analysis of Perriello’s defeat:

…the results had more to do with timing and the strength of the state’s party apparatus than with ideology, analysts say.

Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, who beat Perriello for the Democratic nomination by 12 percentage points, had the backing of nearly every Virginia Democrat elected to state and federal office — the result of years of cultivating relationships.

How many votes did all those endorsements gain Northam? I’d argue a lot, given the fact that Kaine, Warner, McAuliffe, Bobby Scott, Donald McEachin et al actually got out there and campaigned hard for Northam, sent out emails, etc. I find it almost impossible to believe that these endorsements didn’t have a big impact, particularly on older voters – who almost certainly made up a huge segment of the Democratic primary electorate, and who like/respect/voted for Kaine, Warner, McAuliffe, Scott, McEachin, etc.

2. Getting massively outspent: Again, from the Washington Post’s analysis of Perriello’s defeat:

And [Northam] outspent Perriello by $1.4 million on advertising, affording himself a heavy television presence — especially in the costly metropolitan Washington market — in the last weeks before the election.

“The lesson here was you cannot get in a race very late and underfunded against a candidate who has been raising money and organizing for a long time and who has every meaningful endorsement from the Democratic Party,” said Jennifer Duffy, who monitors gubernatorial contests for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. “I don’t think this has anything to do with progressivism.”

Now, I’m not saying you can’t win if you get outspent. In 2006, Jim Webb was outspent by perhaps 5:1 by Harris Miller, yet Webb won. But if you’re going to be outspent that heavily, you’d better offset it with other stuff, like Webb’s large (1,000 or so by June 13) “ragtag army” of grassroots and netroots supporters. No question, Perriello had passionate grassroots and netroots supporters, but whereas in 2006, the grassroots ratio was overwhelmingly in favor of Webb, in 2017, I’d say it was much more even, or possibly even advantage: Northam. That’s not going to cut it, especially when you’re getting outspent as “bigly” as Perriello was…

3. Getting in wayyyy too late. Not that there was much if anything Perriello could have done about this, as almost nobody saw Clinton losing to Trump, and also given that Perriello was busy with a very important diplomatic assignment from President Obama (plus Perriello was “Hatched”). Still, it was a huge, ultimately insurmountable problem to have gotten in so late, after Northam had basically locked up almost every Virginia endorsement, big Virginia donors, etc. Also, getting in the race so late meant that Perriello had to race to build an effective campaign, raise money, introduce himself to Democratic voters (most of whom only vaguely knew who he was, since he only served one term in Congress, from the 5th district, back in 2009-2010), etc, etc. In short, Perriello set himself an almost – or actually – impossible task, and in a way the fact that he ended up with even 44% of the vote shows you the potency of his message – and of the messenger. In the end, if Perriello had gotten in 6 months, a year earlier, who knows…but he didn’t, and the rest is history.

4. Democratic voters overwhelmingly pleased with Gov. McAuliffe (so why not go with his Lt. Governor to succeed him?). For instance, a Quinnipiac Poll in February 2017 found that McAuliffe’s approval rating among Democrats was 82%-6% (+76 points). As for Northam, most Democratic voters didn’t really know him, but of those who did, his approval was 34%-2% (+32 points). And while Perriello’s approval (39%-4%) was also very high among Democrats who knew enough about him to express an opinion, in the end Northam was running as the de facto incumbent, which meant that Perriello needed to make a strong argument not just for “why Perriello” but also for “why NOT Northam?” Implicitly, that also implied that Perriello needed to make some sort of case against Terry McAuliffe, but other than on Dominion and its proposed pipelines, I saw no evidence of that (nor am I at all convinced it wouldn’t have backfired badly).

5. Perriello pledged to run a “positive campaign,” and he overwhelmingly stuck to that pledge. The problem, again, is that Perriello needed to make the argument not just “why him” but also “why NOT Northam?” And staying positive made that difficult. Meanwhile, while Northam himself overwhelmingly stayed positive, some of his surrogates (e.g., Dick Saslaw, NARAL Virginia) hit Perriello hard, and Perriello never seemed able to completely put to rest his former “A” rating from the NRA or his Stupak vote. Compare that to the Virginia GOP gubernatorial primary, where Corey Stewart pounded the crap out of Ed Gillespie, while Gillespie mostly stayed above the fray (or out of it completely), and where Stewart almost beat Gillespie. Another example is the 2006 Virginia Democratic primary for U.S. Senate, where Harris Miller slammed Jim Webb as a racist, misogynist and anti-Semite, and where Webb and his supporters pounded Miller just as hard — as a slimeball lobbyist outsourcing American jobs, etc. So yeah, almost everybody says they hate “negativity,” but in many elections, it sure seems to work. In this election, who knows what would have happened if Perriello had hit Northam hard(er); maybe it wouldn’t have worked, or perhaps it would have even backfired on Perriello. But the bottom line is that Perriello got hit hard and mostly didn’t respond in kind. I find it hard to believe that didn’t hurt him.

6. Northam quickly and aggressively moving to keep Perriello from gaining a monopoly on anti-Trump sentiment.  For VERY good reasons, Democrats despise Donald Trump, and Tom Perriello burst onto the scene in early January 2017 attempting to harness that anti-Trump energy and ride it to the Virginia Democratic gubernatorial nomination. Smart strategy, and it MIGHT have worked, except that the Northam campaign didn’t allow it to work. I was at the Mt. Vernon Democrats’ Mardi Gras party and straw poll on March 5, which was quite possibly the first time Northam unveiled his “narcissistic maniac” line in public. And it worked; the crowd ate it up, cheered it, etc.  Very smart move by Northam’s campaign (note: even if shouting “narcissistic maniac” is almost the polar opposite of Northam’s “moderate,” calm brand/persona, Democratic voters didn’t seem to care…).

7. Northam moved to adopt many of Perriello’s progressive positions — at least rhetorically, and at least for the Democratic primary. On issue after issue, with the exception of Dominion Power and the pipelines, I’d argue that Northam was able to largely neutralize Perriello’s advantage when it came to being most progressive on the issues. Even if some of Northam’s proposals might have been somewhat less progressive than Perriello’s, they were progressive enough so that Northam could plausibly claim he was no less strong – or even stronger, in the cases of guns and women’s reproductive freedom – than Perriello on the issues that most matter to progressives. Note that on the Dominion/pipelines issue, where Northam was less able to counter Perriello, he got trounced in areas directly impacted by the proposed pipelines (e.g., Northam lost Nelson County by an eye-popping 91%-9%; lost Staunton and Bath County by 72%-28% margins, lost Augusta County 65%-35%, etc.).

8. Perriello got the higher turnout he said he needed to win, but it didn’t work. Perriello’s campaign made it clear that they were counting on much higher turnout than we saw in past Virginia Democratic primaries (e.g., 156k in 2006, 319k in 2009, 144k in 2013), and that if he got it, he’d win. Well, he got it (543k Democratic votes on June 13, 2017)…but he lost anyway. Why? There’s no public exit polling data, but it’s clear that while the electorate expanded in numbers, it didn’t necessarily change significantly in terms of composition (e.g., a lot more young voters, “presidential-only” voters, etc.) — at least not enough for Perriello to overcome Northam’s many advantages. For instance, Perriello spent a lot of time visiting college campuses, trying to get young people fired up for his candidacy, but it’s not clear that it worked to bring out legions of young people, certainly not enough to counter…

9. Northam trounced Perriello among older voters. Ben Tribbett gets a major “hat tip” for pointing this one out to me. Check out Greenspring precinct in Fairfax County, which is basically dominated by a large retirement community, and where Northam racked up an incredible margin of 465-65 (88%-12%). More evidence? Check out the results at Heritage Hunt– another large retirement community – in PW County, which went 74%-26% for Northam. Or check out The Hermitage precinct in Alexandria (another big retirement community), which went 71%-29% for Northam. We could go on all day with this, but you get the picture. The problem is that the Democratic primary electorate tends to be older, so if you are getting beaten badly among older voters, you’re almost certainly not going to win the election.

10. Perriello also spent a TON of time in “red,” rural parts of the state, and as this VPAP graphic shows, it worked to an extent, with Perriello racking up big margins in Southside, the Shenandoah Valley, Southwest Virginia and the Piedmont areas. The problem for Perriello is that margins in those areas weren’t big enough to overcome getting swamped in Hampton Roads and also losing Northern Virginia (albeit not by a huge margin). So yeah, it was the right thing to do in many ways for Perriello to spend time and resources engaging “red” parts of Virginia; the problem is that he needed more time (or to clone himself – heh) in order to ALSO court voters in places like Fairfax County (where Northam won 60%-40%), Arlington County (where Northam won 62%-38%) and Alexandria (where Northam won 61%-39%). Those three localities combined added up to nearly 140k Democratic votes cast, out of 543k total in the election, and margins upwards of 30k votes for Northam (note that Northam’s overall margin of victory was 64k votes). So…again, Perriello started too late and didn’t have the resources to compete in the expensive D.C. metro media market.

11. Adding to Perriello’s problems in the D.C. suburbs was, possibly, the Washington Post endorsement. But as I explored here, who knows if that really made a difference, as it has had a mixed track record (at best) of results in the past.

12. Northam won African-American voters. For instance, Virginia Beach went heavily (67%-33%) for Northam over Perriello in the Democratic primary; Chesapeake went 69%-31% for Northam over Perriello; Sussex County and Greensville County each went 72%-28% for Northam; Charles City County went 73%-27% for Northam; etc. You simply can’t lose African Americans by a wide margin in a Virginia Democratic primary and have much chance of winning the nomination. End of story.

So those are a dozen reasons that spring to my mind as to why Tom Perriello lost to Ralph Northam on June 13. Again, please add your own reasons in the comments section – and let me know what I missed. Thanks.

 

 

 

  • Mike H

    13) Dominion’s GOTV effort, including personal letter from CEO to 70,000+ current and former employees, to ensure Perriello (not named, but referenced by virtue of his pipelines opposition) was defeated

    14) Republicans (particularly those with fossil fuel industry interests) who voted Northam in the Democratic primary to defeat Perriello, thinking Gillespie was a sure bet to win the Republican primary. I admittedly have no idea how many did this. Just anecdotal social media boasts about doing so.

  • C Pruett

    The thing is that 1-3 were SO obvious that when it looked like Perriello was catching up/outstripping Northam in the polls it seemed SO unlikely that we thought we were on to something.

    I’ve also got some theories about the perceived energy in the women’s march & other grassroots types movements being misread as energy in favor of progressive change when it’s more likely defensive energy in favor of the status quo/establishment. And I don’t mean that as a perjorative, just a description… the status quo being reproductive rights, the ACA, NOT being North Carolina or Kansas. I mean the status quo can feel progresive when you look out the window and everything else is going backwards.

    It’s no secret that it breaks my damn heart that Tom didn’t (in my opinion and experience) get a fair hearing from a lot of people who I think could have embraced his message but it turns out this was always gonna year to play defense and it’s awfully hard to talk people out of that mindset, esp on a shoestring budget.

  • Edward N Virginia

    We voted for Mr Perriello the first and second rounds for Congress, and based on that experience with him, voted for him this time. He won our rural precinct that had a great Democratic turnout, including a high proportion of our rural Millennials (most of whom are ‘working class’ not professional class folks. We also had many older (50s and up) voters, some of whom are professionals, but many also who work with dirt and grease (construction, fixing things, etc) trees and animals (forestry, agriculture, etc) and health care. BUT Mr Northam also had good turnout in our precinct that might easily have been overwhelmingly happy with Mr Perriello. We had a high proportion of our Black voters participating in the Primary election: I do suspect that they were voting substantially for Northam. And yes, its true, rank and file, vote every time Democrats are attuned to WINNING …. IN THE FALL! … not participating primarily, in the Primary, to ‘make a statement’. I did vote for Mr Perriello, but it was out of respect of him personally, and morally, but that was struggle against the side my brain that said ‘WE MUST WIN IN THE FALL!’ almost filled in the black oval for Northam. But as your point 12. shows, Black voters arrived to vote, and voted substantially for Northam. AND, hasn’t BLM been drilling everyone – well, everyone WHITE – to ‘accept the leadership of Blacks’?

  • John Farrell

    Three more reasons:

    A) Being off the radar of Virginia Democrats since 2010. How many Democratic events did Tom appear at between 2010 and 2017. He wasn’t Hatched that whole time.

    B) Couldn’t answer the Roger Mudd question. Because of my previous favorable impression of Tom, I intently listened to every one of his early speeches wanting desperately to understand the motivation given his late entry and the depth and number of endorsements for Ralph. I never heard Tom answer the question. Worse still, he never said the word “Virginia” in any of the early speeches I heard.

    C) Your “go to” surrogate is your Mom. What was that about?

    • muppetzinspace

      “Your “go to” surrogate is your Mom. What was that about?”
      When you’re not married it’s logical to have other members of your family to stump for you. I also saw his sisters Paige and Elizabth at various forums and meet and greets.

      • John Farrell

        I would have expected the national Democrats who endorsed him to serve as surrogates. Where was Podesta and the other Obama officials? Where was Elizabeth Warren and Bernie?

        • muppetzinspace

          Bernie Sanders had a joint rally for him at George Mason University back in April. But you typically you wouldn’t see these national figures coming to stump for a state race until after the primary. Obama will be out for Northam later this fall, for instance.

          • John Farrell

            A joint appearance is not surrogacy and doesn’t answer why the other Obama officials who endorsed Tom weren’t helping to spread the message to places Tom couldn’t get to.

          • muppetzinspace

            I get your point and I’m not arguing there wasn’t lack of surrogacy on the part of Obama officials. There were probably a lot of reasons for that. Northam explicitly asked Obama to stay out of the primary and it seems his officals followed some of that advice. It seems what few state surrogates he did have, like Luanne Bennett and Gary McCollum, emerged relatively late in the race and wasn’t enough to make an impact compared to those dozens of state surrogates of Northam.

          • Peri Price

            I believe there are some rules as to who can endorse and campaign for any given candidate depending on their elected seat or previously held seat.

          • What rules would those be? I’ve never heard of such a thing.

          • Peri Price

            We had a few NOVA people say and deeply confess that some elected officials could not announce support before the primary? There is no proof of this being a thing – it was brought to our attention by a accidentally canvassed Stewart supporter that stated Trump will not endorse Stewart based on being in office, someone who was a retired DC official of some sorts.

          • I mean, maybe in the case of state/local party officials, who generally are supposed to stay neutral during primaries. Other than that…don’t think there are any rules at all, just personal preference.

          • Peri Price

            I would love to dig deeper into this. I agree that it could be personal preference – if you find anything else that comes up about this or you come across something that could support these theories, please share! I’ve been perplexed by this since I heard it . . . this is the first campaign I have heard this.

          • C Pruett

            I’m curious what kind of surrogacy would have been effective, since the constant narrative was that his endorsements as well as his money came from out of state. I’d have loved Senator Warren to show up but not sure that would have spoken to either the voters he lost or the ones who didn’t come out. And great as the various state and local figures who came out for Tom were, Viola Baskerville & Ryan Sawyers aren’t going to compete w/ Don McEachin & Tim Kaine.

          • Peri Price

            I think that anyone thinking state and local surrogates for a state, not national race, are more effective are completely correct. Obviously Northam had the market cornered on VA politicians but that also comes with him being in the race long beforehand (Jan. 10). From a small sample of people even those who and still are Tom supporters they weren’t interested what anyone had to say about this race unless they were from and a residing influence in VA. Surrogates that would have been beneficial for Tom aside from senators and congressmen? It’s hard to say, affluent democrats did come out with their endorsements but they weren’t seen as “figures” of influence – presidents of colleges would have possibly been great.

    • C Pruett

      What makes you say he couldn’t answer the ‘why?’ question? Do you think ralph had a better answer or does it just not matter as much for the functìonal incumbent?

      • notjohnsmosby

        Many Dems in Fairfax County still don’t know why Tom ran. He truly never gave a real reason.

        Ralph has been on the scene for years. Senator and LG. Tom lucked into a seat in a wave year, and lost it on the first reelection cycle. Then he disappeared from the public eye. Why would you support that guy over Ralph, who’s been winning for a decade?

        • Yeah, great way to promote Democratic unity against Gillespie/Vogel/Adams, by insulting 44% of the Virginia Democratic voters who preferred Tom Perriello over Ralph Northam for a whole host of reasons (e.g., see Top 50 Reasons to Vote Today for Tom Perriello for Governor of Virginia.

          • John Farrell

            What was expected in the comments to a blog post on what went wrong for a candidate’s campaign? Bouquets and bon-bons?

          • dave schutz

            “.Tom lucked into a seat in a wave year, and lost it on the first reelection cycle. Then he disappeared from the public eye. Why would you support that guy over Ralph, who’s been winning for a decade?..” You were asking why he lost. Here is someone with a suggestion for why, and on a site read by perhaps three Republicans, and you are bashing him. Makes one doubt the genuineness of your question.
            I share Notjohn’s dubious views of Mr. Perriello – remember what Edwin Edwards said of his candidacy in La? “unless they catch me with a dead girl or a live boy…” – that was what happened to Virgil Goode, basically, and Mr. Perriello was the lucky beneficiary, by about three hundred votes. And then he looked to have been expecting something swell in the Clinton administration, and when that didn’t happen, he seemed to be looking for something else, and decided he should be Governor.
            Also it’s worth looking back at your ‘polls are crap’ post – I think they are very hard to do, in the current climate, and in addition to the cell phone question your point #9 is worth looking at – who knew that older voters were going to come out in such numbers? I think it’s more likely that the poll was way off in terms of how they adjusted for behavior of groups within the electorate than that there was any sudden collapse in Mr. Perriello’s support.

          • Perseus1986

            Just a question, who/what was Goode’s proverbial “dead girl or live boy” that undid him.
            I think Perriello’s decision to run wasn’t so much lack of employment opportunities in the executive branch alone, but the fact that Trump’s victory changed the whole view of what the VA gubernatorial election was going to be. If Clinton won, it would have turned into the first prominent opportunity to engage in electoral Clinton-bashing by Republicans with tons of money being brought into the state for that very purpose. The Democratic party would have been in its 3rd term in the presidency and it would have been harder for the Democratic candidate to whip up their own enthusiasm and counter that of anti-Clinton voters. Accordingly, Northam in such a situation seemed like the best choice as someone brought up in the VA political system and with no strong connections to Washington. However, seeing that the Republican candidate would be the one responding to activities across the Potomac instead, the VA gubernatorial election suddenly seemed like an opportunity for a different kind of candidate like Perriello. Northam’s victory in the primary has been good for VA Dems for he won Pac-Man style, absorbing Perriello’s message and momentum into his own rather than countering it, making his candidacy stronger as a result.

          • dave schutz

            It was money: “Perriello sought to undermine Goode’s reputation by portraying Goode as a tool of special interests, running an ad recalling an incident in 2006, where Goode was found to have taken illegal contributions from defense contactor MZM, the company from which Republican Randy “Duke” Cunningham was found guilty of accepting a bribe. At the time of the contributions, Goode was securing money for the company to build a military intelligence center in the 5th District. The head of MZM was convicted of fraud, and Goode gave the contributions to charity. Goode’s previous challenger tried to use the MZM scandal against him as well, but Goode still cruised to re-election in 2006.”

          • C Pruett

            I like this!

          • notjohnsmosby

            Backing winners is a key part of winning. I like Tom, but as I’ve written before, he was trying to ride the Bernie coattails and Bernie lost 2-1 last year.

            Ralph wasn’t the consensus pick because there were no other options last year.

            It sounds somewhat that Tom’s run was a way for him and some others to deal with fact that Trump is president. That’s not a sufficient enough reason to run, much less against a guy who had already been running for the better part of a year. I would argue the same thing in the LG race. There was no reason for Susan to run. She offered a lot less than Justin Fairfax, who had been running for the better part of year.

            If you come in late, it better be for a good reason. Not “support me to ease your anguish over Trump”.

      • John Farrell

        Tom was mounting a last minute challenge to the nominee presumptive. Normally such a challenge is prompted by some deficiency in the functional incumbent or the sitting governor. Never heard that explanation.

        • C Pruett

          I just really don’t understand the notion he didn’t say why he was running. He addressed it repeatedly — Trump changed the political landscape and called for a different kind of campaign and an appeal to the lost Obama coalition through a more progressive economic outlook + vocal resistance to Trump. The fact that Northam’s campaign eventually adopted this approach shows Tom was right. Tom’s campaign set the agenda for the race again and again.

          And he talked about Virginia and Virginia specific issues all the damn time, along with visiting every damn corner of it for 5 straight months.

          • John Farrell

            What’s wrong with Ralph – that’s what Tom never explained.

          • C Pruett

            Maybe that’s a more successful approach if your chief goal is winning over Dems who are already invested in the primary, rather than expanding the voter base and shifting the conversation.

            To me, I never heard a satisfactory answer to ‘why Ralph?’ including, say, Ralph was anointed over Herring. But obvs I was in the 44% who found Tom much more convincing. And now I’m knocking doors saying ‘He’s a pro-choice doctor who’s been in Virginia!’ because that’s what the primary told me people want.

          • John Farrell

            It was a Democratic primary not a jungle primary where expanding the electorate might be a strategy.

            Because the burden of persuasion is always on the challenger/insurgent, the “why Ralph” question had already been answered when Herring decided not to contest Ralph for the nomination.

          • C Pruett

            As Lowell says, 44% of us were unpersuaded.

          • Peri Price

            But 44% of you will hopefully come together in unity to make sure we can work together to ensure that Ed is not our governor come November. Two of Tom’s largest supporters and donors from the Charlottesville area are strongly standing their ground on their opposition to the pipeline but are now supporting Ralph (they canvassed yesterday for Ralph in Richmond).

          • My guess is that the vast majority of that 44% will vote for Ralph. Not sure what percent will phone bank/door knock or whatever, but we’ll see…

          • Peri Price

            There is a large number in Richmond currently. But I feel that areas that could easily slip into the grasp of republicans are going to be ignored based on the fact that coordinated is so stumbly right now.

          • C Pruett

            As I believe I said upthread I was knocking doors for the coordinated campaign yesterday.

            Possibly more of those people would show up if they received any outreach from the Northam side or any concern for their issues rather than being expected to show up on their own because unity, but I can’t speak for other people’s experience.

          • Peri Price

            We have to receive the data from Perriello’s people or have NGP release the data that has been removed as they were marked and filtered out to remove targets.

          • C Pruett

            IDK what that means. That the Northam campaign is planning outreach but doesn’t have data?

          • Peri Price

            Things are just pushing to coordinated within this week – when you as a volunteer bring us back data (call packets or data packets) and something is marked “Strong Republican” or “Strong Perriello” it gets entered into a system and those targets are removed. It keeps campaigns from constantly contacting people that do not support said candidate. The Perriello team had the same system we use – so they would be facing the same.

          • C Pruett

            Oh gotcha. I was thinking more about outreach to Perriello volunteers on an individual committee/ interpersonal level.

          • Peri Price

            We would reach out the same way Perriello’s people did during the primary! We thankfully have some undecided people within the system with notes to contact them after the primary (even if they were strong Perriello) so they didn’t get removed – I had a organizer from a delegate campaign who gave that suggestion (he had been with Tom as soon as the campaign geared up) and that some of Tom’s organizer had been doing to make the data transfer easier – super smart.

          • C Pruett

            Cool!

          • John Farrell

            Tip O’Neil is reported to have said that no matter who you are or what you’re running for 35% will vote for the other guy.

          • C Pruett

            Well that settles it.

          • Bingo, C Pruett!

  • Philip Whitman

    As you touched on, I think it mostly flows from the timing issue. Announcing in January left Perriello in a hole financially, with almost no Virginia endorsements (and thus surrogates who could help cover different parts of the state), and simply not enough of an opportunity to court voters. He was able to change my mind, but I’m way into politics. Much of the electorate paid less attention and stuck with who they knew.

    • Exactly. Even with political junkies and progressives like us, it took time and effort on Tom’s part to win us over. He simply didn’t have the time or resources to “scale” that to the necessary extent…

  • ToddSmyth

    No discernible field campaign. At least some of his most devoted supporters were writing letters to mayors about climate change on the Saturday before the primary while the rest of us were knocking on doors for Ralph Northam.

    • C Pruett

      We were knocking doors, dude.

      • LibertarianDemocrat

        Yes, you were. But here’s a key example: I’m a loyal Democrat (well… loyal like 80% of the time) who gave $500 to Hillary. I was called by Ralph’s people well before Trump was even “elected.” I got my first call from Tom a week before the primary election, and my first knock the day before. And when the knock came, they had no idea that I was squarely in the Northam camp, even though I had very politely informed the young man on the phone of this a week earlier. So, if anything, they reminded me to go out and vote for their opponent.

        I’m not trying to undersell your efforts; been there, done that. I knocked on a hell-of-a-lot of doors for Jim Webb late in the game. I’m just saying that there was a big difference between the two campaigns in terms of contact and GOTV.

        Again, not your fault. Money and time played big parts in that. But can’t ignore that Ralph’s GOTV was better, pure and simple.

        • C Pruett

          You’ll get no argument from me that we were outfunded and out-resourced. I was responding to a person who concluded Tom’s supporters had no GOTV effort and no interest in working on one because someone wrote a letter to the editor or something while all the good Democrats were out working for Northam. I don’t see the point in disparaging the commitment of an incredibly committed and passionate staff and volunteer corps for reasons that were clearly driven by money.

          • LibertarianDemocrat

            Agreed.

        • Peri Price

          There organizing efforts also just weren’t as strong as Northam’s. The ratio between the candidates of how many organizers they each had is surprising – I understand that a lot of Perriellos organizers were hired based on their passion for the cause but experience IS huge when it comes to organizing campaigns. And I think that is key.

          • C Pruett

            Are you talking about numbers or experience?

          • Peri Price

            Both. 100%.

  • Hugo Estrada

    Northam’s ads were super effective. I know of two people who voted for him because of his anti-Trump ads.

    • muppetzinspace

      Same, I’ve heard from people outside of Virginia who saw those ads and asked me about if I thought Northam would win and how they could donate/volunteer. The narcissistic maniac line was very effective and it was a good use of his money to play that on repeat as much as possible. But it might back fire a little bit in the general, when you have Republicans like John Fredericks who led a “Republicans for Ralph” coalition to support his run for Lt. Governor, now feel insulted because he insulted the President. I guess Northam’s campaign is banking on bringing out as much of their base as possible and bringing in new voters and not bothering to court Trump voters because you can’t take back the “naracisstic maniac” line back now. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S1TgP_TkfeE&t=489s

  • Perseus1986

    Great analysis. I am very impressed by this primary campaign as I think it represents all of the positives of a primary that were absent from the Democratic presidential primary. I voted for Perriello, partly due to ideology, and partly due to thinking he had the momentum with which he would be better for hitting the ground running in the general, while I had the mistaken impression that Northam was simply awaiting his coronation. Although his surrogates expressed frustration that Perriello was challenging them, Northam never publicly expressed such sentiment, and was a willing participant in several debates, and while attacking Perriello on some issues, didn’t antagonize his supporters in the way that Clinton did to Sanders’s supporters. In turn, I think the primary race helped Northam a lot. He was able to extend his network earlier and sharpen his tools for the general. While he didn’t make as bold publicity statements as Perriello, the fact that he was able to use the party apparatus to win in a high turnout election impressed me a lot and answered a lot of the doubts I had of him. While the 2016 presidential party left a lot of people on both sides bitter, I was disappointed for all of 1 hour, and then became a firm Northam supporter for the general election. This is how primaries should be, everybody has the right to participate and shouldn’t be antagonized for running, and to the victor goes the spoils and people feel good and united going forward to the general.

  • Quizzical

    The way I see it, we were fortunate to have a choice between two excellent candidates, and it is too bad that one of them had to take a loss. Northam has a very strong CV and I think he won based on that, rather than anything Perriello did wrong.

  • Peri Price

    But wouldn’t his decision to run just be a result of Hillary not being elected? I was working a special election in Fluvanna when his mother came into our office (before he had publicly announced that he planned to run) and she had announced his plans to run just to the small group of her friends that were there. Seeing the momentum Perriello had in the 5th district (anti-pipeline and Bernie-crats) he could potentially do so much for the district if he decides to run for congress again.

  • Esther Ferington

    Excellent round-up of observations. I might add two earlier “key dates” in January–not just March–to your item 6 (“Northam quickly and aggressively moving to keep Perriello from gaining a monopoly on anti-Trump sentiment.”) Perriello declared his candidacy in early January. On January 21, both Perriello and Northam were in the women’s march in DC (not together, of course). Northam went with McAuliffe and Herring, all three wearing Planned Parenthood scarves. https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/2017/live-updates/politics/womens-march-on-washington/virginia-political-rivalry-shows-up-at-march/?utm_term=.0c8da3a741aa

    Similarly, at the end of January, when Trump’s unconstitutional Muslim travel ban was imposed at Dulles Airport and elsewhere, Perriello responded first, but by a matter of hours or a day. To me, this shows he was tactically more nimble. (I think we’d all agree on that, given the later ambulance ad!) Once the dust settled, however, both candidates took the same position that weekend; there was again no daylight between the two. https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/virginia-politics/trumps-travel-ban-provides-political-gold-for-virginia-democrats/2017/01/29/28a50024-e658-11e6-b82f-687d6e6a3e7c_story.html?utm_term=.2ebeddddc929

    • C Pruett

      It definitely seemed that the community around the Dulles Travel protests appreciated Tom’s presence and supported him vocally, that just didn’t seem to make much of a ripple statewide.

  • Barbara Eyrse

    Tom Perriello lost because women of Virginia who fully and strongly believe in reproductive choice did not believe him. Just like Bernie Sanders is not a Democrat but an ” Independent,” Perriello is never to be trusted. His position on “gun tights” is also shaky.

    • C Pruett

      Sigh.

      I mean this isn’t wrong, I just feel like the pro choice women of Virginia chose not to listen to him rather than not to believe him.

      Which of course is their prerogative, it will just never stop frustrating me.

      • Peri Price

        They don’t trust him because he is going against someone with one of the strongest women’s right records I have ever seen. And based on the votes he made in the past.

        • C Pruett

          This issue has been so thoroughly litigated (by me, in this space) that I won’t push it but the fact that you, an extremely informed person, are still referring to a single vote on an amendment that never became law as ‘votes’ speaks to how thoroughly Northam’s people won the messaging war on this one. All I can do is shrug and hope they haven’t managed to make a strongly prochoice leader with smart things to say about reproductive justice toxic to future potential voters because it was more important for Ralph to win than for Tom to get a fair hearing.

          • Peri Price

            I will never be a single issue voter. I am speaking about the hundreds if not thousands of people who this does matter to, and that will not see past it. Do I wish that people could get past single issues, sure. But that wouldn’t give us a diverse group of voters and a difference of opinions would become buried in the norm. I think Tom got a more than fair hearing. He did great. That is just one thing some voters will not budge on, just like the pipeline. Because Perriellos Exxon holdings and off-shore drilling did not matter to a large amount of his voters. That’s how strongly the two opposing forces can see things. That one vote and the pipeline. It’ll take voters time, but that’s what unity is about.

          • C Pruett

            I mean, I AM a voter who will not support antichoice candidates given any kind of option. And I had no problem supporting Tom because he is strongly prochoice and was advocating great pro-woman policies. This wasn’t about the issue of choice, it was about how the issue was framed to come down to one 8 year old vote that was deemed unforgivable w/ the help of some serious motivated reasoning. It’s politics and Ralph & NARALVA won the politics. That was what they cared about so good for them.

          • Peri Price

            You seem sour about this issue? Could it be that Ralph was just consecutively more consistent on this issue than Tom? Can we both agree that Northam felt the same wrath about the Bush votes? Albeit he won, but we even fought with supporters on this one, a I am sure Perriellos people had to fight on behalf of that vote and off-shore drilling.

          • C Pruett

            I am sour about this issue because it’s one I care about and spoke out on & was not successful in persuading enough people. The sourness is only human, I think, but people have the right not to find me convincing. I am certainly aware of this.

            And I don’t feel like there’s a ‘both sides’ on this because Tom put himself in a position to answer questions on his record time and time again while I still don’t know whether Ralph was pro choice when he voted for Bush (and yet am told that his consistency is his most important virtue.)

  • Joe Mancini

    We had two good candidates, a fair and just primary, and have an energized and strengthened nominee as a result. The loser has called for party unity and that should result in a win in November.

    I like Tom. I voted for Ralph. Ralph’s ads were excellent. He won my wife over.

    I can understand Tom not wanting to try to recapture the House seat he held for one term; one difficult thing for Virginia politicians is the lack of elective statewide offices available. For example, California has a Secretary of State, a Controller, a Treasurer, and an Insurance Commissioner in addition to the three constitutional offices we have.

    I submit he probably could have won the Lt. Gov. primary.

    • LibertarianDemocrat

      While I really like Justin Fairfax, and think he’s a great addition to the ticket, and can’t help but feel the same.

      That being said, I like Fairfax, and look forward to comfortably and confidently voting a straight Democratic ticket in the fall: Northam, Fairfax, Herring, Roem (I really would love to see Marshall defeated by a transgender person; he might psychologically break).

    • C Pruett

      I certainly thought that part of Tom’s motivation was that the consensus pick of 2016 shouldn’t get a free ride to the nomination without being vetted by voters. So running for LG doesn’t address that issue. The voters ultimately spoke and they reaffirmed the consensus for Ralph and that’s how primaries work. In a counterfactual where Tom doesn’t run, Ralph’s the nominee without voters getting a chance to weigh in.

    • Peri Price

      And can we add that Tom is campaigning for Ralph as a pledge of his unity! Giving credit where credit is due – he will make calls AND knock doors for Ralph. That is stand up and amazing.

  • LibertarianDemocrat

    I’d point out the polls about Northam were wrong in 2013. People have regularly underestimated him.

    http://www.publicpolicypolling.com/pdf/2011/PPP_Release_VA_52913.pdf

    And I understand the general “butthurt” about Tom losing from some people. I’ve had my candidate lose a primary before, so I empathize. Hell, I thought that if Tom beat Ralph in the primary, it would be a sour vote for me in the fall. But I planned to do it nonetheless; I hope Perriello supporters feel the same.

    If people are still trying to blame Republicans, or Dominion, or whatever boogeyman you can pick out for Ralph’s win, I think you are really missing the point. Lt. Gov Northam is a really great person. People that meet him really like him; I’ve seen it with super-liberal Democrats and hardcore Republicans alike. Now, consider this, and note the man has been travelling across Virginia meeting people four the last 5-6 years in some form or another. He’s just very sincere and genuine, and that matters A LOT to people. My gf’s parents met him once, had a three minute convo, and immediately gave money/voted for him.

    Rather than trying to find a scapegoat somebody, Perriello-people should learn from the numbers in preparation for primaries in 2018. Tom did REALLY well in CD-5, where he is known. He struggled elsewhere; if I remember correctly, he only won CD-9, CD-6 and the aforementioned CD-5. And Tom didn’t lose because of Dominion, or Republicans, etc. He lost because he didn’t have deep contacts with key constituencies, like African-Americans, Latinos, LGBT, etc. People that Northam had been building trust with since McAuliffe was elected. So Tom wasn’t a bad candidate; he was just beyond late in getting started. Hell, he might have won if he had gotten into the race a year earlier.

    Northam will be a good-to-great Governor. I know he may not be all that Perriello members wanted, but he is a good Democrat. And more importantly, a genuinely good man. In this political environment, we really need that.

    • C Pruett

      I’m sure there is something to this but I can’t believe there was a person in Virginia who didn’t get a chance to meet Tom between January and June who had any interest in doing so. The connections you’re talking about I guess were more meaningful to people who hang out in circles that are likely to be visited by the lieutenant governor. I’ve lived in Virginia all my life and never had that happen. I met Tom half a dozen times during the last six months without even trying and brought basically everyone I knew. His campaign appealed to people who never felt invited to participate in politics before and I think that matters even if he wasn’t able to scale it up on a statewide level.

      • LibertarianDemocrat

        Perhaps. My point is two fold: A) Northam isn’t as unlikable or “cold” as people this site like to imagine, and B) Tom got into this race waaaaaay to late. I honestly never believed the polls; I know PW (where I live) is a swing district, and I know Hampton Roads like the back of my hand. Based on those two things, I knew Tom was going to have to win NoVA big, and my anecdotal evidence was saying that wasn’t going to happen. People who were going to vote met Ralph, liked Ralph, and were going to tell others to vote for him on election day.

        • C Pruett

          I’ve literally never heard anyone call Dr. Northam unlikable or cold. I’ve seen him speak 3 times, I think he makes a very good impression.

          The fact that it never occurred to me to hang out w/ the Lieutenant Governor before the current election cycle obviously makes me an unengaged weirdo since every other Dem in the state has known him for years. I get it.

          • LibertarianDemocrat

            Does it hurt walking around with that big-ass chip on your shoulder? Or are you just used to it at this point?

          • C Pruett

            Ehh, I was going for flip & missed the mark, slid into bitter :).

            But it is kind of wearying that every Northam supporter I talk to eventually goes into conversations about how important it is to meet him. It doesn’t reduce the sense of Virginia politics as a members only club.

          • LibertarianDemocrat

            And to give the counter-complaint, it is super annoying to have every Perriello supporter tell me that Tom reached “a new type of supporter” and that Ralph only won because “Republicans and Dominion conspired to defeat the true progressive.” It’s like winning a game fair-and-square, and the other side accusing you of cheating when you know you didn’t. It can really, really, REALLY irritate. I’m sure at the same level of irritation when you hear “Just meet Ralph!”

            So I guess we’re just both super annoyed. Let’s just focus our aggression of Tru-I mean Gillespie.

          • C Pruett

            I’m sorry that you feel like you’re getting that reason for Tom’s loss from every Perriello supporter but it’s a little odd to make that complaint on a post where Lowell listed 12 well-supported reasons that are NOT ‘cheating conspiracy of Dominion and the establishment,’ and I chimed in with a few of my own that are also not that. So I’m not sure who you are arguing with but it’s not me and it’s not the post you’re commenting on.

            As for reaching ‘a new type of supporter,’ whether the data bears that out or not, I have no idea, but I don’t understand why you would read it as either 1. a bad thing or 2. an attack. If Tom’s campaign did inspire people to get deeply involved in state politics who hadn’t before (and hi, I’m sitting here having this conversation, so there’s at least one of us) it obviously wasn’t statistically large enough to win the primary. But why you would be irritated by people like me existing, I’m not sure.

            And trust me, I’m better armed to fight Ed Gillespie after listening to Tom hit his negatives for five months. It’s all good here.

      • Peri Price

        As Tom’s campaign shows – he spent a lot of time in rural red areas and in the stretch of the Shenandoah valley. One thing I hate that Tom did while doing all of this traveling was that he flew, constantly. I know it’s the most effective and obviously the fastest based on how many different places he needed to be but it seemed excessive.

        • C Pruett

          I have no idea about flying oe what it has to do with anything, but they certainly put their share of miles on that Jeep 🙂

          • Peri Price

            Pollution my dear. And we live in VA, I’m having a hard time understanding why he took all of those flights unless he had numerous events each day clear across the state.

          • C Pruett

            I mean 1. He did have events every day across the state. 2. I had no idea he was flying, no idea where you got that info, but kudos to them for making the whole thing look like a constant road trip on social media. 3. Not your dear and i have no idea what has given you the impression that it’s ok to condescend to me.

      • Peri Price

        Also, Tom did many more of these events for name recognition. When you haven’t been in game consistently you have to be everywhere all of the time making sure people know you and your name. The time frame wasn’t just not fit to do so.

        • C Pruett

          I mean I’ve known Tom’s ne since 2008 & I was never in the 5th, whereas I had to be reminded of Northam’s name last fall despite having already seen him on my ballot twice. But I knew Tom primarily from The New Yorker/The Nation/The Colbert Report, despite being in the district next door & I think there may have been a miscalculation re: how much the balance of national vs local name recognition mattered.

          • Peri Price

            The Colbert Report? You mean where they did a satirical piece on the ambulance as? I wouldn’t count that as recognition. This was not a national campaign. The vast majority of voters do not care about what a national anything has to say about what is happening in their state, especially during a primary.

          • C Pruett

            He was on Colbert in 2010, same year he rallied w/ Obama. For people following the congressional races that year Perriello was a big damn deal.

          • Peri Price

            But again – that was seven years ago. He really needed to focus his name recognition else where. I know Hampton roads was hard for him, and I get why. There basically just wasn’t enough Tom’s to do the job. I wholeheartedly agree that a cloned Tom would have been benefical to his campaign.

    • Peri Price

      I think your post speaks in LENGTHS as to what people need to hear.

      Anyone who has met Ralph is charmed by him. He drives around in a Prius with a VMI sticker and a sticker of his own. He is a friend Virginian man down to the bone and cares about this state. I’m not saying Tom doesn’t but like I and the person above me clearly pointed out, he cleaned up in CD05. His margin may have been exceedingly narrow a few years ago (727 votes I believe) but he has gained so much momentum and knowledge from this. I think that he could win a larger number of voters any day in CD05 now because of the progressive movement. And besides, that’s his hometown. People love him here, he has deep roots in this area.

  • Slavin Rose

    Northam getting the old folks vote is right. My 86yo friend was HORRIFIED I was going to vote for that “upstart” Tom Perriello with no experience. At what? Sucking the teat of the Democratic machine? That’s WHY I voted for him.

    • Yeah, and get those “whippersnappers” OFF MY DAMN LAWN!!!! LOL

      • C Pruett

        See, Tom’s media people SHOULD HAVE let him keep the beard.

  • Tom

    I had one person show up at my door canvasing for Northam. Never had another phone call or visit about either candidate. When I got a flier from him just before the election, I saved it to remember his name. That he was endorsed by all of the “current” democrats, convinced me to vote for him. They both stood for things I agree with, much like any primary, but it came down to who I thought would have more chance at the polls in November.