DOMA Decision: Say Hello to “Governor Cuccinelli”

By John Fredericks

In a classic ideological paradox, the Supreme Court’s historic 5-4 decision today striking down key provisions of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) will likely determine the outcome of the Commonwealth’s 2013 gubernatorial race.

But it’s not what you think.

If the highest court in the land had upheld DOMA — a socially philosophical position in alignment with Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli — the Republican gubernatorial standard bearer’s race for Virginia’s chief executive would undoubtedly have taken a turn for the worse.

DOMA is a lightening rod of extraordinarily high emotional and economic value for the U.S. Gay community which unequivocally supports same-sex marriage. And DOMA is its policy crest.

If the very law the Gay community so passionately loathes was left to stand, it would have rallied the powerful LGBT lobby into a frenzy of crazed outrage and heightened indignation. And where would that high-pitch frustration get channeled in the short-term? In Virginia, against Cuccinelli. It’s the only 2013 game in town.

Gays and others that vehemently oppose the DOMA law nationally would focus their ire on the socially conservative lawmaker, and attempt to turn him into their anti-gay poster child. They’d likely mobilize their volunteers and activists coast to coast, raise countless millions of dollars, and gamble it all to defeat the one office seeker they deem as their public political enemy number one: Cuccinelli of Virginia.

If this decision had been rendered in 2014, some 435 congressional races across the country would compete for their attention.

But in 2013, there are only two significant electoral contests: New Jersey and Virginia. Garden State Governor Chris Christie is not relevant to this conversation.

That leaves Virginia, and Cuccinelli. There would have been hell to pay. One race, one issue, one objective: defeat Cuccinelli and put the fear of God in other Republicans leading up to 2014.

But DOMA was struck down today, so the issue comes off the table, and Cuccinelli can focus on what Virginians care most about: economic growth, jobs, and roads, and taxes. These are the bread and butter issues that he is very well positioned on. These are issues that will get him elected governor.

So in a rare twist of quixotic fate, Cuccinelli wins by losing. It’s the ultimate political paradox of ideological grand irony.

DOMA went down today. Say hello to “Governor” Cuccinelli. He wins in November.

  • MD Russ


    The logic flaw of your argument is that you assume that people who would have voted against Cuccinelli had DOMA been upheld will now stay home and not vote. That is a bad assumption. To begin with, polls show that registered Virginian voters favor gay marriage by a margin of 56 to 33. Even further, when you look at moderate swing voters, the margin of approval increases to 65 to 27. Even among self-identified Republicans, the disapproval rate is split 40 to 47.

    What this decision demonstrates is that Ken Cuccinelli, as a sitting state Attorney General, is both on the wrong side of the Constitution and on the wrong side of popular opinion. That is hardly going to garner him support in November outside of his Republican base.

    Better get used to a Governor in a cheap Hawaiian shirt holding a bottle of rum.

    • John Fredericks

      Hi MD, Good argument, but you missed my point. The pro-same sex marriage activists and enthusiasts who live in Virginia were / are going to vote for Mr. McAulliffe either way. But this DOMA knock-down decision relaxes the profile of the issue, and greatly dimminishes Mr. McAuliffe’s ability to rally a national influx and volunteers and money to help defeat the Attorney General. I saw that as a potential game-changer in igniting Mr. McAuliffe’s enthusiasm gap with his base. — John

      • MD Russ


        Your analysis is certainly no less accurate than mine. However, one advantage that T-Mac has is that he will have absolutely no problem raising out-of-state money, DOMA or no DOMA.

        As an off-year election, this race will likely be decided by very low voter turn-out. And the polls show that neither candidate is particularly liked by the middle-of-the-road swing voters. So, it will come down to which candidate has the most negatives. Will Cuccinelli’s support of DOMA be a negative or will this SCOTUS decision defuse the issue? Well, if you accept Scalia’s dissent, it will not defuse the issue since Virginia is among the 38 states that still prohibit gay marriage. Stand by for an influx of gay rights money and rainbow banners in the campaign this fall. Far from defusing the issue, the DOMA decision has emboldened the gay rights movement to make it applicable to all 50 states, one state at a time.

  • DJRippert

    If I were McAuliffe I’d play this the opposite way. I’d say that the federal government is no longer in the way of gay equality. But the state government remains the last roadblock for equal rights for gay people. We’ve won the first half but not the game. Elect Terry McAuliffe and we win the game. Elect Ken Cuccinelli and we lose the game. Don’t quit at halftime.

    That would be my pitch.

    Civil rights issues don’t start and stop on a single event. They build momentum as success goes from being a longshot to being possible to being likely to being inevitable.

    King’s I have a Dream speech was in 1963, the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964, the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965, the freedom riders died in 1966, the Supreme Court struck down Loving vs Virginia in 1967. The sanitation strike in Memphis was in 1968.

    If McAuliffe can’t harness the “First Washington, now Richmond” momentum he doesn’t deserve to be elected.

    • John Fredericks

      DJ, sure, but the sense of urgency regarding this election is relaxed. John

      • DJRippert

        That’s a possibility. We’ll see if McAuliffe can pull off – “We’re almost there. Don’t stop now!”. Where is Vince Lombardi when McAuliffe needs him?

        • John Fredericks

          Dead and buried, like GreenTech…LOL

  • fauquier freedom Boners

    I agree with Russ, this is twisted logic at best.

  • CLCRichmond

    Cuccinelli will bring more people out to vote against him than any other candidate in the country. The Tea Party may love Ken but the common man and woman simply despise this intrusive piece of crap. Once again he has made the commonwealth a laughing stock as he tries to revive his sodomy ban. My son will be 18 in August and he cannot wait to cast his first vote against Ken Cuccinelli. Cuccinelli should get some credit because young people across the the state cannot wait to vote against the man who is obsessed with outlawing blow jobs. Its great to see them so interested in politics its just unfortunate the reason.

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