( – promoted by lowkell)
by Paul Goldman
At least give Bill Bolling and Terry McAuliffe credit: they didn’t waste any time backing the transportation tax package, not even waiting to see if it had enough votes to pass the House and the Senate. Whether you agree with their politics or policies, you have to credit them with not hiding from making a choice.
Which raises the question: Where is Ken Cuccinelli?
Yeah, I know Republican Governor McDonnell is for it. Yeah, I know if you don’t support the plan, you set up the unprecedented situation where the Democratic nominee is backing a plan supported by a Republican governor, a Republican Speaker and a Republican House of Delegates. Yada, yada, yada. But the big thing, the big opportunity for Cuccinelli is this: It is now possible for the 2013 election not to revolve around social issues. THIS IS HUGE FOR A GUY LIKE CUCCINELLI.
With all due respect to the AG, his campaign, his supporters and whomever: he was on a path to be wiped out (the alleged tie in the polls is an illusion; just read the internal numbers the way an experienced campaigner understands them). That was yesterday. But today is different…maybe.
Why maybe? Because it is incomprehensible to me that Cuccinelli has yet to oppose this plan. What does he gain politically from backing the transportation tax deal? Here is the key: If he supports this plan, he takes economic, tax, spending and related issues OFF THE TABLE. This makes the GUV race about social issues.
To repeat: If the 2013 campaign is on social issues, CUCCINELLI LOSES. No one has been elected Governor who has been seen as making social issues JOB # 1. But if the election is instead on taxes, whether we should be spending previously earmarked for education on building news highways like McDonnnell’s “Road To Nowhere”, and related non-social issues, then Cuccinelli MIGHT have a chance of winning.
Plus: Cuccinelli is a much better as the
anti-establishment candidate than as the establishment candidate. This “comfortability” factor is often overlooked. The transportation plan is an establishment plan, which is why it doesn’t have a policy theme; it is merely about raising anyway possible upwards of a Billion dollars for roads. This is why the major newspapers, big special interest groups and lobbyists are all for it.
The Transporation Tax plan is easy to attack on a campaign basis as a pro-tax, anti-education con job. Do I really have to go through the patented way Republicans have worked the tax issue in Virginia? There is a reason my no tax pledge for Wilder was picked up by Warner and Kaine. How hard is it to turn this into the patented anti-middle class big government burden in these tough economic times? Not very. [I am told the Post now has a story online which indicates Cuccinelli is inching toward the inevitable, still the tortoise, not the hare.]
Plus, you have the fact this plan can be turned into an anti-education plan by using Senate Democrats own words against it.
Thus, in broad strokes: There is, with a smart campaign, a Cuccinelli strategy of being anti-tax and pro-education relative to the Democrat nominee. This has not happened since 1997, when Gilmore ran not only on the No Car Tax, but on his promise for 4,000 new teachers. The education promise helped him a lot, although this is lost to the conventional wisdom. But you say: Gilmore didn’t live up to any of that. My response: If they held the same election the same way now, Gilmore would still win!
I ask you: If Cuccinelli backs this plan, why would there not be a four-way race, featuring an anti-tax Republican? For those who find my 200-proof politics a little too strong, I understand. But the truth is what it is. This is about getting elected, don’t tell me this new transportation plan is based anything but a typical political deal trying to get 51 votes in the House and 21 in the Senate. That’s politics too. Nothing wrong with that either.
Bottom line: The Cuccinelli campaign faces a life or death test. This is not the governor’s original plan, no matter how they try to spin it. In 2004, McDonnell, Bolling and Cuccinelli opposed a smaller tax which went to the General Fund for education, balance the budget, etc. This gives Cuccinelli all the cover he needs right now. He is sticking to the same principles the three of them followed for years. The other two have a new view 9 years later. But they surely can’t accuse Cuccinelli of changing the very principles they all shared for years.
Cuccinelli has a simple choice: Go against the base of his party or oppose a plan supported by a popular Republican governor. This is surely not the choice he would prefer. But it is what it is.
Republican McDonnell has to back Cuccinelli publicly, or he is through nationally. Plus, McAuliffe is pro-choice. There is no way McDonnell can publicly back, even privately support, a pro-choice former head of the Democratic National Committee. The pro-life base is Mr. McDonnell’s base.
What is his future even in Virginia, for McDonnell if he alienates both the anti-tax base and the pro-life wing of the GOP? Yes, Cuccinelli will anger the governor to more or less of a degree.
But you say: If Cuccinelli goes against the plan, might it not push Bolling to run? Then we would have two guys for the taxes in the plan, and one guy not. How does this take away from Cuccinelli’s base support among anti-tax, pro-life Republicans? Plus, it at least gives Cuccinelli an argument against Bolling: “finally, we see that the LG’s candidacy has always ben rooted in trying to punish me for sticking with my anti-tax position”. Bolling will be the highest taxing Republican for governor. Cuccinelli can live with that. Bolling says he has been liberated now, that he only took his previous positions due to trying to be a partisan Republican (read the Post this morning). Cuccinelli can’t be worried about Bolling at this point, that ship has sailed.
Which raises the question asked in the beginning: Where is the Cuccinelli for Governor for campaign this morning? Based on his campaign to date, Cuccinelli didn’t earn what he has now been given: a second chance to run a campaign on non-social issues. He is still a significant underdog. But potentially a lot better off than 24 hours ago.