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Wednesday, April 3, 2013
If Mitt Romney, in his own words, was “severely” conservative, there are no words to describe Virginia’s Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who loudly opposes abortion, gay rights, global warming scientists, health care reform and partially naked state symbols.
His putative opponent for Virginia’s governor’s mansion in November, Terry McAuliffe, has proven himself similarly voluble and in need of a map. Of Virginia’s Cabinet table. Perhaps of Virginia, too.
It’s easy to make fun of the foibles and shortcomings of the current crop of candidates for the highest office in the commonwealth. Believe me, over the next several months, wags will.
I suspect that’s a significant reason this campaign is developing so weirdly.
It’s a given that the biggest fans of each party started applauding before their quarterback took the field. Party fealty is sad, but it’s never unexpected. It’s also not particularly effective at predicting races.
The vast middle of the electorate is where elections are won and lost. At the moment, both men are skeeving out a lot of folks. On balance, I suspect Cuccinelli’s pugnaciousness is more off-putting than McAuliffe’s come-hereness, but that’s not really the point.
Plus, it’s early. Both men are trying desperately to redefine themselves, a process I am unable to recall ever working. It’s even less likely to succeed for large personas so well-defined.
Seems to me that’s why plenty of people — and for now, it’s only political junkies paying much attention — don’t seem eager to vote for either man. More important to the candidates, they don’t appear eager to give them much money.
A look at donors at the indispensible Virginia Public Access Project certainly suggests that. McAuliffe’s largest donor, by far, is McAuliffe. Cuccinelli’s largest donors are the corporations that want his dispensation, and the familiar culture warriors.
That will undoubtedly change as the election nears, but there’s a reason some folks who ordinarily contribute tell me they’re sitting on their check-writing hand. They are, quite simply, hoping for another choice.
Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling might have been that alternative. It would have taken a monumental — and expensive — effort to overcome the state’s formidable Republican organization and energy and the inertia and chaos of what’s left of the state’s Democratic Party.
I’ve talked with a few who have already contributed to their guy because that’s what they do. But if my conversations are any indication, many more want a third choice, one they can feel good about.
Any one correspondent can provide a skewed sample. All I can tell you is that folks I’ve talked to represent a cross-section of this community: white, black, young, old, people I know ordinarily support Republicans and those who ordinarily support Democrats.
When the marquee was filled with the names Bob McDonnell and Creigh Deeds, these people worked hard for their candidates and contributed. They bent my ear about how strong their guy was. How practical and sensible. When the last Senate race pitted Tim Kaine against George Allen, those people did the same.
Nobody is doing that for McAuliffe or Cuccinelli. In fact, what I hear most is questions — hope, really — that Sen. Mark Warner might change his mind. Or that somebody else might stand up a legitimate independent campaign.
All you need, after all, is money. A lot of money. Ten or 20 times as much as the $1 million Russ Potts raised in an attempt to split the difference between Kaine and Jerry Kilgore in 2005.
It’d take a man or woman of considerable means, which is to say a lot more millions than our already privileged political class can muster.
Like every other Virginian, I’m a fan of political competition. And more candidates means more competition. And a colorful — and serious — third candidate could turn this race into the best yarn of the year. And journalists always root for good stories.
I suspect there’s little chance of any of that happening.
Which means that in 2013, with Virginia at the very center of the nation’s political life — with the single most prominent partisan contest in America the one to helm this fair commonwealth — we’re likely to once more figure prominently at the top of every late-night show and comedian’s opening bit.
Thank you, Mr. Cuccinelli and Mr. McAuliffe. And good night.
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