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Democratic Unity Going into 2013?


In reading Lowell’s diary discussing the possibility that Tom Perriello is being “groomed” for statewide office in Virginia, I had my own reaction, which was that such a notion disrupts what I’ve been feeling the last several months: Democratic unity going into 2013.

With the 2012 election less than 70 days away, consider where Virginia Democrats are positioned.

RealClearPolitics has averaged the polls to give Obama a narrow 0.6% lead against Romney, while Nate Silver is forecasting a slightly larger 1.8% victory for Obama.

Close, but a clear shift from “Old Virginny” that usually delivered Republican presidential victories without question. We can win this, and Virginia may be the tipping point that keeps Obama in the White House.

At this point in 2008, RealClearPolitics had McCain and Obama tied. It wasn’t until late September that Obama started to open up a lead against McCain in the Old Dominion.

The Senate race between Tim Kaine and George Allen has stayed neck and neck. Although I see little room for Allen to benefit from crossover support from Obama voters, I can see concerns about ballot drop off from Obama supporters allowing Allen to seize victory. But the fact remains that Obama’s strength in Virginia is helping Tim Kaine, and encouraging him to run with the President, and not away from him.

We can win this, and Virginia may be the tipping point that keeps Democrats in control of the United States Senate.

A Tim Kaine victory would deliver three straight statewide US Senate victories to the Democratic Party, the first time since the 1960s. Democrats haven’t won back to back Presidential victories in Virginia since 1948.

But the work for Virginia Democrats doesn’t end after November. We’re preparing to take back the Governor’s Mansion in Richmond next year and all signs point to a united effort behind Terry McAuliffe, while the GOP will face a bloodbath between the establishment pick Bill Bolling and the Tea Partier Ken Cuccinelli.

Everyone keeps wondering if Mark Warner will run for Governor, but I’ll just throw out these observations-

1- Warner was unwilling to challenge Hillary Clinton in 2008. What would increase his odds in taking her on, should she decide to run, in 2016?

2- If Hillary Clinton is out of the picture, why Warner? The idea that a moderate white Southerner is necessary for the Democratic Party to win the White House has expired.

3- Even if Warner thinks he is the only one able to win in the Presidency in 2016, or the best candidate overall (sure, why not?), can he get the nomination? When facing off against Cuomo, O’Malley, Schweitzer, and whoever else runs, Warner knows he has no strong grassroots appeal, and would struggle with most of the big donors in the Democratic Party (Hollywood and Jews) with a leg up only with Silicon Valley and the tech industry in general, given his entrepreneurial background. Warner’s only hope may be to “stick in there” against the other big names and hope that their baggage and inexperience bring them down.

Suppose that Warner’s path to the presidential nomination is to be the entrepreneurial, innovation candidate. Warner needs some faction of the party, and it’s money, behind him. Staying in Washington and working on bipartisan solutions like the Startup Act may actually be a better strategy than running for Governor. It would allow him to work directly on a handful of national issues that the tech community is focused on (high-skilled immigration, patent reform).

Also, given the potentially narrow margin in the Senate (and with mavericks like Angus King in Maine likely), Warner would understand that running for Governor and giving up his Senate seat would be risky for the national Democratic Party. While he could also attempt to campaign while keeping his Senate seat, such an insider move would open him up to attack from the Republicans for trying to juggle two jobs at once. Such a gamble seems out of character for the traditionally risk averse Warner.

All the signs point to Warner not running, clearing the way for Terry McAuliffe. Chap Peterson has largely ruled out a run. So has, for the most part, Tom Perriello. Does anyone seem ready to take on Terry? I don’t see it.

There are rumors about Terry pushing for a convention and trying to put together a ticket. We’ve been here before, back when Mark Warner was putting pressure on the state party to clear the way for Emily Couric as Lt. Governor. Warner  would have preferred either Roanoke’s John Edwards or Danville’s Whitt Clement to the eventual nominee Donald McEachin, but even Warner knew he didn’t have the clout (at the time) to force a convention. Could Terry pull such a switch off?

I certainly hope not, because an end to the more direct and democratic process of a primary would move the party in the wrong direction. This primary process is already leading organically toward two strong candidates who will likely be victors against any other possible opponents: Aneesh Chopra for Lt. Governor and Mark Herring for Attorney General.

I don’t see where any strong objections for a McAuliffe-Chopra-Herring would come from. There would be a diversity of backgrounds with private business, legal experience, and working at the nexus between government funded research and market driven innovation.

Why are we worrying about trying to find more candidates for statewide office, when we should appreciate the blessings of already having strong statewide candidates? Wouldn’t it be better to consider ways in which we can help both these candidates and the local Democrats that will be considering a run for the House of Delegates in the next few months?


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