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Saturday, September 24, 2016

July 15 (Bloomberg) — In 1991, Zell Miller, then governor of Georgia and a Democrat, advised his colleague Bill Clinton of Arkansas that there were two guys he needed to run his likely presidential campaign: James Carville and Paul Begala.

“Who are they?” asked Clinton, a man well versed in Democratic politics. Even though they had had successes, including Miller’s election, Carville and Begala didn’t become a big deal until they ran Harris Wofford’s campaign in a special Pennsylvania Senate election in 1991. It was the signature contest of that off-year election cycle. A month later, Clinton hired the two young politicos for his successful presidential run.

This year, the signature race is the Virginia gubernatorial contest. The campaign manager of the Democratic candidate, Terry McAuliffe, is Robby Mook, a 33-year-old political wunderkind. For those who believe history repeats itself, there is chatter that another Clinton — Hillary — might turn to him, as the architect of the year’s most visible Democratic campaign, to direct her next presidential quest. Mook worked for her in 2008 but is the sort of fresh, new age, tech-savvy strategist that she lacked at the top of her campaign.

First he has to win in Virginia, a race that pits McAuliffe, a prolific Democratic fundraiser, successful former national party chairman and intimate of the Clintons, against the state’s attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli, one of the most prominent Republican social conservatives and a Tea Party favorite.

The competing strategies in this close contest are clear. They are trading ethical charges, which is probably a wash with voters. Cuccinelli is counting on his passionate base among social conservatives. The Virginia electorate that will turn out in November will be older, more white and evangelical than the voters who helped President Barack Obama carry the once reliable Republican stronghold by four points last year. If the voter profile had replicated that of the last governor’s race, in 2009, Obama would have lost.

“There are a lot more committed voters who will turn out for Ken than there are committed voters who’ll turn out for Terry,” asserts Chris LaCivita, a leading Cuccinelli adviser.

The Republicans are trying to tie Obama’s record around the Democratic candidate’s neck, especially the Affordable Care Act.

“Obamacare is the biggest impediment to job growth in the state,” Cuccinelli said in an impromptu interview last week. He was the first to bring a lawsuit against the health care measure, though without success.

The attorney general, comfortable his base will turn out, is focusing on jobs and the economy and de-emphasizing his controversial social positions. He has declared that abortion is as bad as slavery and that same-sex relationships violate the laws of nature and could be prosecuted. He’s really moving away from E.W. Jackson, the minister chosen by the conservative- dominated Republican state convention to be the party’s lieutenant governor nominee. Jackson has accused Obama of being a Muslim and an atheist — a tough trick — suggested yoga could lead to Satanism and that Planned Parenthood has been more harmful to blacks than the Ku Klux Klan.

The Democrats are quick to remind voters of Cuccinelli’s social views. At the same time, McAuliffe is warming to the debate over jobs and the economy. He is more comfortable than his opponent in talking to business types; he’s been shaking them down for campaign funds for decades. He has won the endorsements of leading Republican business figures and prominent former office holders.

In Virginia, “there is a centrist electorate, including the business community, which does turn out,” Mook says. He links McAuliffe to two popular former Democratic governors and current U.S. senators, Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, as well as to the current Republican governor, Bob McDonnell.

“We are capturing the more moderate brand of Warner, Kaine and McDonnell,” Mook says.

  • Dominick Vila

    If the outcome of the Virginia gubernatorial race was based strictly on qualifications and relevant record Terry McAuliffe would win by a landslide, but since those attributes often take a back seat to ideology, anything is possible. All we have to do is look at what happened in South Carolina, when a corrupt politician was elected senator, or what happened in Florida when a man whose company received the largest fine for fraud in history was elected governor.

    My guess is that Northern Virginia will do the right thing and vote for McAuliffe, but that is likely not going to be the case in rural Virginia, the Richmond area and other parts of the state, where Tea Party proposals are still popular.

  • Eleanore Whitaker

    I cannot see VA as being the road to the White House. Actually, the Republican bull male domination party has boxed itself into a corner ideologically and politically. This party’s patina reeks of elitism and class warfare. The reason southerners always end up voting for all the wrong politicians is simple: They actually believe their live may inch up a notch or two for the better, based on political promises GOP male bulls seem to conjure up from the depths of their carpetbags.

    To say VA is remotely a possibility for the presidency is a joke. VA is the biggest feeder at the trough with the most military tax subsidies than any other state. That’s a fact proven by a quick check of how much of our tax dollars end up in VA for the military industrial complex there. If a state relies too heavily on a single industry to maintain economic stability and that industry can only be supported by tax dollars funded by taxes from other states, what kind of president would a politician from VA be if not another red state trough feeder like Bush ’43 was. All anyone has to do to verify that is to check how many northeastern military bases Bush and Cheney closed and then reopened in their states.. How many of the TX industries related to Big Oil profited most handsomely during Bush’s 8 years?

    Candidates who become president to better their own states financially are not exactly the kinds of presidents who consider the burden on the most heavily taxed states who provide financial sustenance to their home states.

    • charleo1

      I agree with everything you say. But, respectfully disagree with your conclusion. I tend to believe the direction our political future takes
      will rest on the social ideas Americans decide to accept, or reject.
      And, are strongly in play in Virginia. Primarily because of Cuccinelli.
      If they come to believe government tyranny looks like being forced to
      buy health insurance, for example They may decide to accept what
      I see as borderline fascist authoritarianism, by the Cucccinellis of the
      extreme political Right. And certainly they blend their regressive, and
      top down, economic strategies, and philosophies, to appear as being
      in complete harmony with their, “Conservative,” social agendas. Oh,
      they will loudly proclaim. It has been the corruption of the Socialist
      Welfare State, that my opponent believes in expanding, that has so
      weaken the values of hard work, the traditional family, and the State
      sanctioned murder of our unborn, that has brought the Country to our
      current state of affairs. They will tell their already frightened, White rural
      base. I believe in a military that must be second to none, to protect
      these Christian Values, in a dangerous world. They will tell the North
      Virginians, in the well to suburbs of Quantico. I would like nothing better
      than to be proven out, embarrassingly wrong. That would mean, people
      know what you know. And easily see through the rhetoric, lies, and
      misinformation, on which he, (Cuccinelli,) bases his vision for Virginia and beyond. I’m just not sure they do.

      • TZToronto

        Oddly, what might save the ACA is the desire of big insurance to make more money. The $716 billion savings was conceded by insurers because of the potential ultimate prize–more insured people paying more premiums. Now if the insurers will just come up with the cash to support candidates who promote ACA, then some good things can happen–such as defeating the obstructionists in Congress and the social Neanderthals who run so many of the states (apologies to the Neanderthals for the comparison).

      • Eleanore Whitaker

        There are no “social Ideas”….there are back room mandates of some very authoritarian autocrats. Virginia isn’t the state that determines policies, ideals or “social ideas” for the rest of the country. VA has proven to be a playground of right wind narrow minds that is simply too backward and too out of touch with progressives. VA lives in the antebellum world of mint juleps on verandas, Big Daddies who dictate life and existence and women who sit back and have their palms buttered by Big Daddies who think women should always be second. Compare that to northern states where women comprise more than 75% of heads of households. As you see easily why VA is backward, you also imply that backward thinking and existence is the only way to insure gross male insecurity remains on the front burners while common sense, common decency and intelligence take a back seat to old antebellum rituals of tradition…In the south, it’s all about the dead…Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis and the Stars and Bars…all long dead and gone from the minds of progressives who cannot possibly dwell forever as the VA population and other backward conservatives do…in the past. Sorry…I do not agree. Try again.

        • Dominick Vila

          Eleanore, Northern Virginia is very progressive and serves as a catalyst to folks in rural districts and parts of Southern Virginia. Whether or not there are enough votes in those relatively small parts of the state to elect McAuliffe remains to be seen.

  • David L. Allison

    Do not underestimate the power of the Center-right coalition that McAuliffe is pulling together. Mook is demonstrating that there are main street voters all over Virginia who are turned off by the hyper-right wing attacks by the Republican team that threatens jobs and development in South and Western VA.
    Mook is making it clear that this guy is no McConnell and that if you vote for Cucch, you get the package with the village idiot as a bonus. Contractors across the state know that Cucch will bring transportation construction, the only State sponsored contracting that reaches out to the rural regions, to a complete halt in the name of “fiscal necessity”.

  • Sand_Cat

    Don’t mean to be negative, but if they’re going to “link” the Democrat to “moderates” like Governor Ultrasound, they might as well throw their support to Cuccinelli.

  • howa4x

    If The tea party wins in Va then single women should move out or state. That would settle the abortion debate quickly

    • mrbeenie

      No, it would’t settle a goddamn thing. It would just be yet another example of liberals running away with their tail between their legs, instead of fighting for what they believe in. If the Tea Party wins in Virginia, that actually gives Democrats four years to strengthen their base, get their anti-tea party message together and then just sit back and watch Cuccinelli destroy himself and his party.

      I hate this kind of thinking among liberals, even when it is used jokingly. Democrats already have a problem sticking up for themselves. These kind of comments just help to perpetuate that problem.

      • howa4x

        Well if all the single women, gays, Latinos, and minorities moved out of these tea party states than who would be left there? Only older white men in their 60’s and a lot of horny other men. Sometimes you need the nuclear option to wake up every body. Currently in SC because of their restrictive polices against gays, none will move there, and the corporations are begging the state to change their policies. Imagine if smart women or others decided not to move to states that have anti women/gay/Latino/minority polices and refused job offers by corporations, or if the groups I mentioned boycotted these states for vacations. Action speaks volumes. Just the mere threat of that happening would get a lot of people nervous since they would now know the people being discriminated against won’t take it and are deadly serious about change.