Leahy: Glenn Youngkin’s Unforced Errors Give Terry McAuliffe the Advantage in Virginia
Mid-July used to be a time when political campaigns went away, did a lot of fundraising and left the campaigning to their surrogates and the few, unlucky paid staffers who didn’t have enough clout to wrangle a beach break.
Those days are gone, kaput, never coming back. In a narrowly divided Virginia, the political stakes are just too high for candidates to ease up even for a few days.
That leaves the statewide campaigns with a lot of time to fill. Will they do it with policy ideas, white papers, maybe a debate or two? One could hope — and voters most certainly should demand it.
The McAuliffe campaign has put out a lot of material, but none of it seems to be sticking in the public mind. Why? We already know Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic nominee for governor. He’s been on the statewide stage since his first gubernatorial run in 2009. His ideas — and even his baggage — are mostly old news.
What bothers some Democrats I’ve spoken to is the constant pitches for contributions. In a way, though, that’s a good sign — a throwback to when summers were devoted to raising money and laying the groundwork for fall.
What we’ve gotten from the GOP side, though, is a hot July mess.
Trackers from the Glenn Youngkin campaign confronted McAuliffe at Reagan National Airport on his return from a brief vacation. Was the hope to get McAuliffe to slip up, maybe making a circa 2006 George Allen-like “macaca” gaffe that sends his campaign into a tailspin?
Sure, maybe. But questions about whether the Clintons were at Nantucket or questioning why McAuliffe accepted Gov. Ralph Northam’s (D) endorsement despite having called for Northam to resign following the yearbook picture scandal in 2019? That’s bush-league stuff.
Instead, get the trackers to ask McAuliffe about the Virginia Parole Board. There are plenty of unanswered questions that would fit neatly with Youngkin’s law-and-order message.
A bigger issue, though, is ex-president Donald Trump’s growing interest in the campaign.
Trump has issued three statements on the gubernatorial race, praising Youngkin, deriding McAuliffe and, most recent, inserting the ‘big lie’ about the 2020 presidential election and warning that we should “watch the ‘vote counters.’”
Trump’s repeated commentary is a gift to McAuliffe. Yes, the Youngkin campaign is attempting to punch back claiming that it shows that McAuliffe has an “obsession” with the ex-president. Fair enough.
But let’s be clear: Trump lost Virginia twice. In Trump’s single term in office, Virginia Republicans lost control of the 2nd, 7th and 10th Congressional Districts. The GOP lost control of the House of Delegates and the state Senate and was shellacked in the 2017 statewide races.
Were the McAuliffe campaign to ignore Trump — especially when the ex-president decides to make himself an issue — it would be guilty of gross political malpractice.