Reasons Terry McAuliffe and Kirk Cox Should Give Thanks
Among Virginia’s many conceits is that it, and not some New England upstart, was the site of the first Thanksgiving celebration. Another of the commonwealth’s conceits: Its off-year statewide elections offer clues about the electorate’s mood following a presidential election.
Until 2013, the prevailing mood of Virginia voters was to pick a governor from a party different from that of the president. The McAuliffe-Cuccinelli slugfest broke that pattern, but things returned to normal in 2017, with Democrat Ralph Northam’s landslide win over Republican Ed Gillespie (with President Trump in the White House).
Northam had ample reason to give thanks to the man he called a “narcissistic maniac” for being president. Trump was the organizing principle, the fundraising hook and, most critically, the Republican baggage that helped him cruise to victory.
With Trump out, Joe Biden in and Virginia’s political class bracing for a big election year, who will be giving thanks this time next year?
Former Virginia House Speaker Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights) may be giving thanks for having former Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe (D) around because McAuliffe’s presence guarantees a rough and potentially destructive Democratic primary.
McAuliffe won the 2013 Democratic gubernatorial nomination without a fight. But he needed a boatload of cash, a GOP scandal, a government shutdown, a plausible Libertarian candidate and a deeply unpopular opponent, then-Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II, to eke out a win seven years ago.
Conventional wisdom thinks McAuliffe will win the nomination with not too much bother next year, dispatch any GOP nominee and solidify his place as one of the most consequential Democratic governors in Virginia history.
But recall the rough-and-tumble 2009 Democratic gubernatorial primary: McAuliffe’s decades of shady glad-handing fueled his opponents, Creigh Deeds and Brian Moran. McAuliffe finished second.
This time, the Democratic field is even more stacked with talent, ambition and compelling stories. McAuliffe will have little choice but to go on the attack to win in a field that includes Del. Jennifer D. Carroll Foy (Prince William) Foy and state Sen. Jennifer L. McClellan (Richmond). McAuliffe will also have to contend with Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, who will not go away without a fight.
Let’s throw into the mix the out-of-left-field (almost literally) possibility that self-described socialist Del. Lee J. Carter (D-Manassas) may join the race. Even with little money and a less formal organization, Carter would scramble the calculations and narratives of every other contender.
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