WASHINGTON – Former President Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton, his wife and former secretary of state, invested plenty of heart, media face-time and probably money in the campaign of their friend Terry McAuliffe to become the next governor of Virginia.
Nothing in McAuliffe’s furtive past could have possibly persuaded the Clintons to shun the man’s final bid for elective office. That’s because his victory will, if she actually runs for president, firmly plant this swing state’s Democratic camp in her corner during the 2016 primary season. But as a trial run, as a scrimmage for her campaign team, the McAuliffe victory is worthless to the Clintons.
For a real assessment of Hillary’s political prowess, her next screen test needs a venue that offers much less muddied contenders than McAuliffe and the Republican nominee, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.
McAuliffe’s election left only two clear lessons. The first is President Obama’s tremendous attractiveness to African-American voters – an offer of real coattails for all Democratic candidates whom he supports. Daily Beast reports from exit polls showed black voters participated in larger proportion than any other category.
The other message is that no disagreeable extremist like Cuccinelli, whether running as a Republican, Libertarian or Conservative, will ever win a hotly contested race in a major state ever, other than by fluke.
The rest of the picture was fragmented. For example, the chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin, crowed McAuliffe’s victory was a rebuke to the national Republican Party. It wasn’t. McAuliffe was made possible only by a candidate like Cuccinelli.
Democrats like Shumlin, and many mainstream media players, try to associate Cuccinelli with the so-called tea party and then roll it all up in a gooey ball they call the Republican Party. Long before Cuccinelli became a candidate for governor, he identified with Catholic life issues with a passion and self-righteousness that almost seem to the right of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.
For nearly a decade in speeches before conservative Catholic clubs, Cuccinelli danced around the anti-contraception fire, and toyed with legislation that would have effectively outlawed abortion. Later, he was the first attorney general to attack Obamacare, without ever supporting any of the law’s popular patient protection clauses.
Cuccinelli offended Republican regulars in a very personal way. Gentlemen’s agreements (pardon the expression) matter in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Cuccinelli was supposed to wait his turn to run for governor, but decided to bull his way into the nomination last year, and made bitter enemies in the party.
In addition, he openly opposed the bipartisan transportation funding plan of Gov. Bob O’Donnell, the head of the state GOP. Cuccinelli left no right-wing stone unturned. On the last weekend of the campaign, he stood grinning behind former Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, as Paul called for “nullification” of federal laws that conservatives dislike. Nullification of federal law was a rallying cry in the South during the Civil War. Paul’s joint appearance with Cuccinelli was in Richmond, the capital of the Confederacy.
It would have taken works of genius for a Democrat, even McAuliffe, an ardent supporter of the Iraq war who had been chased by tales of financial irregularities for a decade, to lose to Cuccinelli.
Happily for next year’s Democrats, Cuccinelli will have plenty of imitators egged on by hate radio and financed by the deep pockets of men who yearn to roll the entire New Deal and most of the social changes of the last half century.
Better national Republicans should look to their fellows in Erie County, who won last week by being simply, the un-Democrats who want lower taxes and smaller government. But they won’t.