Saxman: Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Learn

Last night’s stunning upset of Gonzaga by the Baylor Bears in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship game reminds us, once again, no outcome is predetermined.

Honestly, if you had Gonzaga and 15? YOU LOST.

Final: Baylor won 86-70.

If you had the game going over 159 points you were looking great until Gonzaga stopped playing in the final two minutes.

That’s why they call it gambling.

Speaking of Wins, Losses, and Gambling, let’s turn back to the evergreen topic of Virginia elections.

Last week, we had a quick but deep dive into the House of Delegates 2021 elections with Charles Nuttycombe of CNalysis where we previewed the top 26 races. Nuttycombe, for his relative youth, had a great deal of information to share and the discussion was quite lively.

In the end, we agreed that there are, right now, about nine to ten races really in play this fall. Of course, that is subject to change. Just ask Gonzaga.

Right now, I would put that Over/Under at 9.5 with the House rated as a Toss Up for control. On that Nuttycombe and I agreed. Last week, I had inaccurately reported that CNalysis had the House rated at a Tilt Democratic for control. His ratings go Toss Up, Tilt, Lean, Likely, Very Likely, and then Solid.

They have it as a Toss Up. If later this year we start talking about Lean Democratic districts being in play, it’s going to be a bad outcome for the Democratic House Majority.

[Paid subscribers and Virginia FREE members will get that Top Ten list later today.]

There are three Toss Up districts currently represented by Democrats, two Tilt Republican districts represented by Democrats, and four Tilt Democratic districts represented by Democrats.

2021 – the Democrats are on defense, Republicans are on offense.

This is probably the most competitive year – at this date – for control of the House of Delegates in the last twenty years; however, the math to 51 for the Republicans is a bit more difficult than it is for the Democrats. Mark that comment as being written on April 7th. Yes, 2017 ended up being close, but it didn’t look that way the first week of April.

And YES, a 50-50 split is distinctly possible this year.

Anything can happen, but to debunk a commonly used phrase about politics – NO, it is not early. The campaign narratives and constructs are being developed right now and this is when elections are won or lost. Right now, Democrats are trying to put away Lean and Likely Democratic districts as early as possible so that they can focus on their majority. They also have 15 incumbents being primaried by candidates further to the left.

When the April 15 finance reports come out, we’ll know even more.

You cannot make up lost time or undo bad narratives especially these days with so much early voting taking place. Republicans made a key – and correct – decision to stick with their May 8th nomination date which will give their nominee a month head start on the Democrats.

Early Voting starts 45 days before Election Day in Virginia. This year that is September 18th. Labor Day is on the 6th.

Still think it’s early?

Breaking down our Republican Statewide Survey of 472 participants, several things stand out. (Since this was not a scientific poll releasing the specific data on the races would be inappropriate and I don’t need all the phone calls/texts this week.)

Here we go:

  1. The race for the Republican nomination for Governor is rated as Toss Up between Delegate Kirk Cox, Pete Snyder, and Glenn Youngkin. As one campaign consultant agreed “It’s wiiiiide open.”
  2. State Senator Amanda Chase has fallen well back of the top three and in the Ranked Choice format her negatives are the worst of any candidate. By far.
  3. On issues, GOP voters overall thought opening schools was more important than job creation, but it’s the INTENSITY of the Election Integrity issue that’s absolutely critical for Republican candidates to get right with their base messaging. Critical. Even though Senate candidate Daniel Gade and radio show host John Fredericks stated publicly that the Virginia elections were not fraudulent, the narrative is national and must be respected by the candidates right now. I’m also told that illegal immigration is picking up steam in the polling too.
  4. It also looks like a three way race for the LG nomination with Delegate Glenn Davis and former delegates Tim Hugo and Winsome Sears. Davis has the edge but the pre-filing of delegates to the unassembled convention continues.
  5. Delegate Jason Miyares is in very strong position to capture the nomination for Attorney General but this survey did not include the late entry of Jack White. I think White’s entry only helps Miyares at this point since he now has three opponents instead of just two in Leslie Haley and Chuck Smith.

Our Democratic Candidate survey is still developing but here are some observations based on the input to date:

  1. Terry McAuliffe is likely to win but can he get over 50% and does he need to overwhelm the field going into the fall? Does that matter and to what degree are the big questions here. And what does it say about the Democrats with four candidates running against a relatively popular and successful governor like McAuliffe who can no doubt raise money? How energized will their base be throughout the rest of election? Where will they be living and will they want to register to vote? Time will tell, but fundraising, organization, and a compelling message will tell more.
  2. State Senator Jennifer McClellan seems to be running the best campaign of the challengers to McAuliffe. Had this nomination been decided by Ranked Choice, McClellan could have made this a very tight race. Either way, she’s a class act and well respected with a long career ahead of her if she wants it.
  3. I still have the Mark Herring – Jay Jones Attorney General race as my Upset Alert for the June Primary. Herring barely beat current Lt. Gov Justin Fairfax for the low turn out nomination in 2013 – 51.6 to 48.3 – at the same time Ralph Northam beat Aneesh Chopra – 54.2 to 45.7. The crowded Governor and Lt. Governor races (a dozen candidates) whittle down to just a binary choice for AG. That down balloting could knock out Herring. Odds are Herring still pulls it out, but if Derek Chauvin is acquitted later this spring all bets are off since the anniversary of George Floyd’s killing will be just before this primary.
  4. As I discussed with Nuttycombe on Friday’s Zoom, the Democrats have some real problems going forward and we agree that the work of David Shor should be required study by any political observer. MUST READ ARTICLE ON HIS WORK
  5. There is, after all, a reason why so many Republicans and Democrats are running for statewide office and why so many are running for the House of Delegates. Opportunity knocks once in a lifetime – yo.

Book Recommendations:

A Time to Build: From Family and Community to Congress and the Campus, How Recommitting to Our Institutions Can Revive the American Dream by Yuval Levin and Lucky – How Joe Biden Barely Won the Presidency by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes. One’s about what could/should happen and the other about what just happened. Great combination. One left, the other right.

Streaming Recommendations:


David Foster – Off the Record. Amazing, complicated life of one of the greatest record producers of all time. 47 Grammy nominations, 16 Grammys, and 5 marriages makes for great viewing.

Chef’s Table – BBQ. Four great mini docs in one. Love it.

Amazon Prime

Muscle Shoals – The incredible story about a small town with a big sound. Rolling Stones, Aretha Franklin, Allman Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and so many artists recorded there. Just jaw dropping. How good is it? I put Muscle Shoals, AL on a cross country drive five years ago and STILL love watching it.

News/Commentary Recommendations:

EVERYTHING by Matt Taibbi – but let’s start with this one : The Sovietization of the American Press

And EVERYTHING by Bill Maher on HBO. Start here:

Consumer Product Recommendation:

PELOTON. We absolutely love ours. Only 18 rides in but man what a difference that bike makes. There’s a reason that they’re back ordered. #AWESOME

Now to some companies and their customers who are making news these days.

I only offer these comments as even more unsolicited advice from having been in politics for over twenty-five years, business longer than that, and having chaired an international trade association.

  1. CBS 60 Minutes – If you are going to try to shiv a leading contender for the GOP nomination (Florida Governor Ron DeSantis) in 2024, expect blow back when you go full-on partisan hack job. Also, expect his counter punch to elevate him nationally.

  2. MLB – I would have counseled a different approach to their decision making process like showing deliberation with a full public briefing on the Georgia law, but their decision, in my honest opinion, has MUCH MORE to do with their Collective Bargaining Agreement with the Players Association than it does with Georgia election law. The CBA expires this year and giving the players any pre-game ammunition could have ended poorly for the owners.
  3. Delta – If you have a major tax break or other laws on the books that benefit your shareholders, be careful what you ask for. Again, it’s not the punch but the counter punch that hurts in politics. Like chess, once your hand is off the move it’s the other player’s turn. I also wouldn’t dismiss labor relations as a factor here.
  4. Coca-Cola – I don’t know … maybe they like fending off bipartisan soda/CSD tax bills in 50 states and numerous local governments to fund health care initiatives or education programs or bike paths. (CSDs = carbonated soft drinks) This is a piñata waiting to happen or have you not seen the political connection available for Republicans trying to divert attention from the pandemic and masks when reports are showing that 80% of COVID deaths occurred among people who were overweight or obese.

Naturally, what happens when businesses get into trouble is that other business leaders pull back their engagement. Which is the LAST. THING. THEY. SHOULD. DO.

They should just do it wisely and with good counsel. Politics is unavoidable these days. Like Trotsky said:

You might not be interested in politics, but politics is interested in you.

That’s what your trade associations, chambers of commerce, and non-partisan organizations like Virginia FREE are for. We’re here to help – every day. Showing up when it’s convenient or when you see an opportunity or need help is NOT how you build relationships. (Remember the whole Jonnie Williams problem back in the McDonnell Administration? Yeah, he didn’t have a registered #regulated lobbyist.)

That doesn’t work with your customers and it sure as hell doesn’t work in politics where the knives are long but the memories are longer.

It’s also about ten times (at least) cheaper to be consistently engaged in politics than waiting for the fire alarm to ring.

Remember this Fram Oil Filter commercial from 1981?

You can pay me now or pay him later.

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