Voters who have paid fairly close attention to the Virginia gubernatorial race -- which is to say, not many Virginians -- are likely aware of Democrat Terry McAuliffe's failed (and legally embattled) business venture, howling hypocrisy on tax transparency, and long, sordid history as a party insider and money man. What is beginning to emerge as a defining element of McAuliffe's candidacy, however, is his breathtaking lack of preparedness to actually do the job he's seeking. McAuliffe has been around politics forever, but glad-handing and milking donors is a totally different beast than governance. The Democratic nominee has never held elective office in his life, and his most prominent foray as a chief executive has panned out quite badly. Evidence of McAuliffe's callow glibness are seemingly cropping up every day. To wit, the Washington Post reports on a higher education forum attended by both candidates in Richmond yesterday. True to form, Republican Ken Cuccinelli came prepared with detailed policy ideas and granular knowledge. McAuliffe? Not so much:
The candidates gave back-to-back addresses at the Virginia Summit on Economic Competitiveness and Higher Education, held at the Greater Richmond Convention Center. In his speech, McAuliffe stressed the need for Virginia to diversify its economy through investments in education, particularly with the state’s defense-heavy economy likely to take a hit from federal budget cuts. He also said that Cuccinelli would make the state seem unwelcoming to scientists and gay university professors because of his conservative stance on gay rights and his “witch hunt” against a University of Virginia climate scientist....Cuccinelli touched on plans to promote school choice and shape energy policy. Happily playing the wonk, he delved into the nitty-gritty on some of those items and directed the audience to look up his detailed policy proposals on his campaign Web site...The speeches themselves fed into the narrative that emerged from the TechPAC flap: that McAuliffe is breezy while Cuccinelli grasps the details and gravity of the job. Both candidates had 45 minutes to address the group. Cuccinelli gave a 39- minute address heavy on wonky details. McAuliffe gave his standard 16-minute stump speech.
McAuliffe offered "standard" stump speech, from which he deviated only to dabble in innuendo about how Cuccinelli's gay marriage stance might make the state "seem unwelcoming" to gay scientists. Cuccinelli, by contrast, delivered an on-point speech packed with wonkish specifics. The entire purpose of the event was to discuss and debate higher education policy. One of the candidates engaged the topic seriously. The other phoned it in, playing up irrelevant wedge issues to mask his ignorance. McAuliffe's amateurism is nothing new. During the campaign, McAuliffe declined to take a position on a major transportation project, refused to state his own opinion on an issue over which he was attacking Cuccinelli, failed to name a single Virginia cabinet position when pressed, and admitted last month that he hadn't even looked at the state's budget (which is balanced with a surplus, thanks to Republican governance). Then came the TechPAC flap, which further underscored the candidates' seriousness gap:
He didn’t give any details. He was all about jobs, jobs, jobs — ‘I’m just going to take care of the situation when the time comes. I’m just going to do it.’ It was all [expletive].” Cuccinelli, by contrast, the person said, “was precise. He was thoughtful. He thought through all the issues. He had a clear position on all those issues ... McAuliffe told the PAC board that as an Irish Catholic he’d be adept at taking people out for drinks and doing whatever it takes to get things done. McAuliffe is well known as a schmoozer, but he seemed to badly misread his methodical audience with that answer, several of those present said. On a question about whether Virginia should stay in something called the “open-trade-secrets pact,” Cuccinelli gave a thoroughly researched response, the person said. But McAuliffe answered, according to the source: ‘I don’t know what that is. I’ll have to look it up later.’
Rather than roll up his sleeves and prove that he has what it takes to do the hard work of governing a major state, McAuliffe is running a campaign of demonization. Especially in Northern Virginia, he's relentlessly harping on Cuccinelli's conservative social issue positions. But it seems as though he isn't eager or equipped to discuss his own beliefs:
Democrat Terry McAuliffe is telling supporters that as Virginia governor he would issue a “guidance opinion” that would exempt existing abortion clinics from complying with strict new health and safety standards. The only problem: State officials say there is no such thing as a guidance opinion and that governors have no such formal authority. Mr. McAuliffe said last week that he plans to take the action to keep 18 remaining centers open after abortion clinics in Fairfax City and Hampton Roads announced that they would shut their doors as a result of the standards.
In order to help keep abortion clinics that fail to meet basic medical and sanitary standards open, McAuliffe is vowing to exert an authority that doesn't exist. Then, asked whether he will support taxpayer funding of abortion, McAuliffe commented on the weather:
Shorter McAuliffe: My opponent is an extremist on abortion! Oh, what are my policy preferences? Say, isn't it beautiful out today?