Leahy: The Virginia GOP Exorcised a Few Political Ghosts

Virginia Republicans did some extraordinary things in their nominating convention last weekend — they took the first, tentative steps out of the political wilderness, exorcised a few local political ghosts, and made the November general election a genuine toss-up.

And yes, it is all but guaranteed that when Democrats go to the polls in June, they will nominate Terry McAuliffe for a second term as governor. Forget making history with a Black woman leading the ticket. Forget refreshing the talent bench for future contests.

In nominating former Carlyle Group co-chief executive Glenn Youngkin, the GOP is putting what is essentially a blank-slate candidate with exceedingly deep pockets up against a political lifer who still has not answered that most fundamental of questions: Why should he get a second term?

Are Democrats worried? Of course they are. It’s a rational response to a candidate who may spend $75 million of his own money on the general election contest — and who will spread some of that cash around on Republican candidates for the House of Delegates.

Money is not the only factor. Organization matters. On that score, McAuliffe has the clear advantage — for now.

But it’s foolish to underestimate the skill Youngkin’s team displayed in nabbing the GOP nomination. Conventions may be sketchy insider affairs, but they are profound tests of organizational and bureaucratic skills. That Youngkin navigated it successfully — never trailing in any round of the ranked-choice voting — shows he’s a very quick study.

The question now is whether he can quickly translate the purpose-built convention apparatus into a smooth running — even McAuliffe-like — statewide machine.

If he can, and there’s no reason in the short term to think he can’t, Youngkin will give McAuliffe a stronger challenge than Ken Cuccinelli II did in 2013.

Speaking of Cuccinelli: Virginia Republicans also appear to have exorcised a few local political ghosts. Cuccinelli, their 2013 standard-bearer, was all-in for fellow 2013 candidate Pete Snyder. The ex-lieutenant governor candidate, who lost that year’s nomination in a convention to E.W. Jackson, made it to the final round of voting against Youngkin. But Snyder’s weird Trumpish shtick, combined with suspicions he was gaming the convention, went nowhere. Is he finished as a statewide candidate? Two convention losses say so.

As for Cuccinelli and the other specters of failed GOP candidacies past (E.W. Jackson, Mark Obenshain, and Oliver North), the GOP base has moved beyond you. So long.

Continue reading at The Washington Post.

Photo by Jerry Baldwin

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