With Bill Bolling and Tom Perriello both out of the gubernatorial race, we’re down to two candidates – Ken Cuccinelli and Terry McAuliffe. Given the thrashing President Obama did to Mitt Romney in Virginia, particularly in Northern Virginia, and given McAuliffe’s name recognition and money, it would be easy to consider him the immediate front runner. The left certainly thinks they’ve got the upper hand, and their parrots on the blogs  have already started calling 2013 their year after four years of losing badly at the state level.
They’re wrong. You heard it here first, folks, and from as unlikely a source as you’ll find on Bearing Drift. Ken Cuccinelli is going to be the next Governor of Virginia. And that’s coming from me, everybody’s favorite RINO.
I’m sure some of you are scratching your heads at this one. I haven’t always agreed with the Attorney General on policy or politics, but I have always respected him. Why? Because he is one of the smartest, most deep thinking politicians I’ve ever met. He has demonstrated this fact again and again over his career, and he’s made that career by blowing away expectations and pulling off upset victories that few saw coming. I do my best to be as objective an observer as I can be, and my objectivity tells me that Ken is going to win next year, for a variety of reasons.
First, he’s probably the only candidate in Virginia who can unite all of the various sections and camps of the Republican Party into one. He has the respect of establishment Republicans like me for his political skills and his ability to win. He was one of the first elected officials to embrace the Tea Party movement – the first time I recall seeing a Gadsden flag in Virginia politics was at the 2009 Republican convention when Ken’s troops marched into the arena with yellow shirts and giant flags and the place exploded. And he’s even earned the respect of the libertarian wing of the party, no small feat for anyone holding elected office. Base turnout is not going to be a problem in this election.
Many people like to try to split the party into groups – establishment and outsiders, Tea Party, libertarians, etc. The reality is that things are a lot simpler than that. The Meyers-Briggs test, which most of us have taken at some point, has as one of its four categories “Thinking/Feeling.” It may be an oversimplification, but I view many party breakdowns along those lines. There are the Bill Buckleys in the party – those of us who focus on logical solutions, grounded in conservatism, who care about policy and the in-the-weeds solutions to problems. Then there are the Ronald Reagans in the party – the folks who want to be moved by a rousing speech, an appeal to emotion, to feel that their candidate is one of them, someone who gets it, and someone who shares their principles, whatever they may be. Some folks are a little of both. Ken’s focus on policy as AG, his suits against the EPA and against Obamacare, as well as his principled stand on issues like the Triggerman rule appeal to the thinkers. Ken’s social conservatism – something he’s never run away from – and his commitment to life and issues that the social conservative side of the party care about appeals to the feelers. They know he’s like them, and he doesn’t need to try and prove anything. He’s already proven it. To win, you need to convince the thinkers and move the feelers and Ken can and has done both.
Second, he’s smart and he’s disciplined. As much as the Democrats want to claim that Ken is their dream candidate, he’s really not. They want Todd Akin. Or Richard Mourdock. Or Christine O’Donnell. Or Sharron Angle. Ken is none of these. He’s a veteran legislator, a gifted attorney and he’s managed to win races where he’s come from behind and pulled out wins. His first nomination set the tone for the rest of his career, first beating Mike Thompson – who had the support of the Fairfax Republican establishment, including sitting Congressman and former Fairfax Board of Supervisors Chairman Tom Davis – in a firehouse primary no one expected him to win. He then went on to beat Fairfax County School Board member Cathy Belter 54-45. He withstood a challenge from popular Democrat Janet Oleszek in 2007, and stomped former Delegate Steve Shannon for Attorney General – after winning a 3 way primary for AG, the only really contested race in 2009. He knows how to win. He has the message discipline to focus on what matters and not allow himself to stray into dangerous territory that the other side is salivating to get him into. He doesn’t need to waste any time convincing Republicans who he is – they already know. He can market himself to the middle from the very beginning of this race by talking about what he’s done as Attorney General, and his record there is stellar.
One of the things that has always struck me about Ken is he is always a few steps ahead of his opponents. His play in packing the State Central Committee was nothing short of masterful. It was something many saw coming, but no one was capable of doing anything about. It’s that kind of chess-like approach to politics that always has him seeing solutions to problems that others just don’t see. And that’s how he was able to outmaneuver Bill Bolling – another smart, talented elected official – and get him out of the race without having to face the bloody battlefield we were all expecting this May. That was one of the most deft moves I’ve seen in Virginia politics lately, and it just may have saved us all this year.
The Democrats were counting on us moving into the general election divided, angry, coming off a very tough primary for governor that would weaken us as a whole. Ken ensured that didn’t happen by out thinking his opponent and winning the battle before it even began – something straight out of Sun Tzu. If he can do that to someone like Bill Bolling, what do you think he’s going to be able to do against a neophyte like Terry McAuliffe?
Finally, the Democrats did us a big favor in not selecting their most electable candidate, Senator Mark Warner, and instead going with yet another former DNC Chairman. Terry McAuliffe has never held elective office. He’s been a fundraiser. He’s been a talking head and a businessman. The electorate just showed what it thought about electing a businessman to office – they don’t care how much money you make in business. And while he’ll be sure to get President Obama and President Clinton down here out on the stump for him, Virginia’s inclination to elect a Governor of the opposite party of the President also works in Ken’s favor. Throw in the fact that the left-wing blogosphere isn’t that enthusiastic about McAuliffe anyway, and I’m betting we’re going to see the opposite of what happened in 2012 happen next year – Democrats stay home, while Republicans come out in droves. And that means Ken Cuccinelli is going to pull off another win.
A lot of people have bet a lot of money against Ken and they’ve lost every time – I know, because I was one of them. A lot of folks are going to bet against him this time, saying the same things they’ve always said – he’s unelectable, he’s too conservative, and the like. Everytime that’s been said, they’ve been wrong. And they’ll be wrong again this year.
My bet – and my vote – is on Ken in 2013.