Terry McAuliffe Has One Question to Answer: Why?

Terry McAuliffe 2.0 is having a bumpy rollout.

The former governor wants his old job back. But before he could make the formal announcement, one of the candidates already seeking the Democratic nod, Del. Jennifer D. Carroll Foy (Prince William), announced she was resigning from the House of Delegates to become a full-time gubernatorial candidate.

That was a smart move. It revived a flagging tradition among those seeking the commonwealth’s premier political post to give up whatever elected office they currently occupied so they could make a conflict-free run for the nomination.

It also set Carroll Foy apart from the others seeking the Democratic nomination. State Sen. Jennifer L. McClellan (Richmond) issued a defensive statement that, as The Post’s Laura Vozzella reported, was essentially a veiled criticism of Carroll Foy for abandoning her post at a time of “unprecedented crisis.”

Perhaps. But it does show Carroll Foy is in it to win it — and isn’t hedging her bets.

More broadly, Carroll Foy grabbed the headlines before McAuliffe could utter a word. It may not carry her to victory, but it clearly demonstrates there will be no painless McAuliffe restoration. He’s going to have to fight.

The question is, fight what? The other candidates, for sure. But McAuliffe’s existential concern is one no amount of ads or bluster can touch. Why is he running?

Former governor Doug Wilder (D) framed McAuliffe’s dilemma perfectly in an interview with Politico. Wilder said it is “highly unusual” for a former governor to try to make a comeback. That oddity aside, Wilder focused on the “why” of the McAuliffe run. From the Politico article:

“It would have to [have been] concluded by Mr. McAuliffe that things are in such dire shape, bad shape as far as the Democratic Party is concerned, that he has to do this — that he has himself considered the other candidates not worthy of the job,” Wilder said. “You just have to assume that. And the question then would be: Why?”

The contention that McAuliffe would do even more and better things in a second term makes enormous assumptions about Democrats maintaining control of the House of Delegates in 2021 — never mind McAuliffe winning both the nomination and the November general election.

I wrote earlier that McAuliffe’s 2013 win over Republican nominee Ken Cuccinelli II required just about every star in the political heavens to align correctly. And, even then, McAuliffe barely scraped by.

Don’t count on it happening again. As for Democrats retaining the House of Delegates, that depends on whether the suburban anti-Trump coalition that walloped the GOP in 2017 and 2019 can do it again in 2021 without Trump as its unifying principle.

But back to Wilder’s point about the “why” of the McAuliffe rerun.

It does assume Virginia Democrats are desperate. They were back in 2019, when scandal engulfed Gov. Ralph NorthamLt. Gov. Justin Fairfax and, to a lesser degree, Attorney General Mark R. Herring.

The very real political crisis remained. McAuliffe eventually stepped in, assumed the campaigner-in-chief role Northam would have played in the 2019 General Assembly elections and helped Democrats earn trifecta control of state government.

Read more at The Washington Post.

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