Democrats should ditch Terry McAuliffe and draft Jim Webb

Opening the email yesterday, I find a note from Terry McAuliffe’s campaign. “Like Terry on Facebook,” it says. I may follow his campaign, it’s part of what I do. But like him? That’s McAuliffe’s problem — even among Virginia Democrats.

One of the most scathing, and on-point, criticisms of candidate McAuliffe comes from my friend Waldo Jaquith. Waldo is not thrilled with either major party candidate running for governor next year (and his criticisms of Ken Cuccinelli are particularly blunt). But his take-down of McAuliffe borders on poetry:

Not one Democrat in a hundred is excited about McAuliffe. Democrats are fired up about him the same way that Republicans were fired up about Mitt Romney. The base will fake it through November and, if he loses, they’ll all say how they never really liked him in the first place. If he wins, of course, they always believed in him!

Virginia Democrats, then, find themselves in a real pickle. The President wins the state a second time and they retain the open Senate seat. They should be looking to expand those gains next year. But with McAuliffe having cleared the gubernatorial field, they are saddled with a candidate at the top of the ticket for whom there is not much like, are certainly no love.

As much as the conservative in me hopes they remain stuck with McAuliffe and are forced to have to defend his record as a Clinton bag man, I hope Virginia’s Democrats find a way to toss Terry over the side and get a candidate who can give the commonwealth the gubernatorial race it deserves.

The man for the task? Jim Webb.

I disagree with Mr. Webb politically. But he remains the one Virginia Democrat who could mount not only a credible campaign for governor, but could also win.

He dislikes campaigning, but he has a fondness for policy and ideas. Those latter points are essential for any successful governor. Webb also prefers to get things done — what better place to get busy than in one of the most powerful governorships in the nation?

The trick is convincing him to make one last go — at an office with a single term limit. He does his time, does everything he can to advance his agenda and then retires. A side benefit? He could be the one statewide Democratic candidate who could stop the party’s bleeding in his old stomping grounds of Southwest Virginia.

I hope he does make one last run. A contest between Webb and Ken Cuccinelli could give Virginia the kind of race it has not had in a very long time — one that would offer voters a clear choice of political visions.

We could use a contest like that. And as for Virginia’s Democrats, they need a serious, thoughtful, tough candidate like Jim Webb on the ticket. Otherwise, they become the punchline, on their way to becoming irrelevant.