by Paul Goldman
Recently, one of the state’s top election gurus belittled, with his usual statistical analysis, my way-out-on-a-limb-prediction that I made last month, of a Virginia Democratic sweep this November. Such a sweep would be the first time this has happened since the Wilder-Beyer-Terry ticket of 1989. Here at 200-proof politics, we call it like we see it.
We based our prediction on this crucial “tell”: we don’t believe the Cuccinelli strategy team regards the so-called “free media” part of a campaign as particularly relevant this year. Yes, they are sending their candidate around the state making speeches, doing debates, issuing releases on his position on the issues, yada, yada, yada. And yes, they claim to want 15 debates.
But they know, as I know, the following: No campaign that is serious about the “free media” campaign wants that many debates. Given prep time, and post-debate story time, it would eat up most of the campaign coverage. And we know what happens with campaign coverage of that type: It is reported he said/she said in BOOOORING REPETITION unless one guy makes what the press sees as a gaffe.
At the first debate, the press jumped all over something Terry said about Richmond Commonwealth Attorney Mike Herring’s report clearing the AG of any legal wrongdoing in the Star Scientific matter. Terry tried during the debate to deny Cuccinelli from claiming he had been so cleared. Unfortunately, Terry needs better legal advice: in the way the law works, Cuccinelli was cleared, and he gets to brag about it.
EXCEPT: He didn’t brag about it. Moreover, he didn’t jump all over Terry for trying to take those bragging rights away. The press was waiting to make it the headline if Cuccinelli had done what every other candidate for Governor I ever worked with would have done. Those campaigns all appreciated the value of “free media,” and such a moment was the Gold Card for such things.
But the Cuccinelli campaign seemed bothered that they had to deal with this “free media” side of things. They wanted to go back to their real strategy: TURNOUT. They are convinced they don’t need a real strategy to win. This is the same reasoning of those who disagree with my prediction. They say I have failed to consider the normative statistical turnout in a governor’s election year vs a presidential year. Not true.
Enter then: the Cook Report, which reports that a new national poll done on older voters – the key GOP demographic in a non-presidential year – says they are considerably less inclined to vote Republican right now than in 2009, when Bob McDonnell won. If this most reliable GOP demographic is not eager to vote for Cuccinelli, then he will need more than a turnout strategy to win.
Assuming the Cook Report is accurate, then I’ll make this new prediction: Cuccinelli’s starring role in opposing Obamacare, which gets right into Medicaid expansion, state funding for schools in middle class areas, and the like is going to be coming to a TV near you in the near future. Democrats think Cuccinelli’s opposition here is a slam-dunk winner for them.
200-proof disagrees. The political issue for Obamacare as regards the swing older voters and indeed middle-aged swing voters is this: these folks already have health care. For them, Obamacare’s problem is two fold. One, it isn’t seen as cutting their premiums or costs. Thus, they see it as not helping them in that regard. Second, though, they see it as requiring them to take money that should go for schools, job creation, cutting taxes, and pay for someone else’s health care.
Terry is right that more health care does create more jobs. But not middle class jobs. High end, low end, the cost cutting is in the middle. That’s why 200-proof said from jump street that Medicaid expansion is tied to Obamacare in Virginia right now, and it is a potentially very big issue for Cuccinelli.
If the Cook Report is right, then I believe even the Cuccinelli strategy team will realize that their boy has got to start using the “free media” campaign to make this whole mix of things an issue. Democrats had best be ready: it has always seemed inevitable to me.