2013 Campaign Ticker: Massachusetts, Virginia, New Jersey

Posted: May 29, 2013 2:40 PM
2013 Campaign Ticker: Massachusetts, Virginia, New Jersey

Let's take a quick spin around the major 2013 races:

Massachusetts Senate (special election)
- Voters will head to the polls four weeks from yesterday in the Bay State, where Republicans are hoping to pull off a Scott Brown-esque upset.  The GOP nominee in the contest is moderate Gabriel Gomez, the son of Colombian immigrants, a former Navy SEAL, and a Harvard MBA.  Every single poll of the race to date has shown Gomez trailing his Democratic opponent (the spread varies widely), so it's clear that 18-term liberal Congressman Ed Markey is the frontrunner.  Republicans aren't conceding the race, though; the national party deployed staffers to Boston for the home stretch of the race, during which the Gomez campaign plans to hammer away at Markey's tax hiking proclivities.  Having voted for higher taxes 271 times over his interminable Congressional career, Markey was recently asked by a reporter if he could think of a single instance when he opposed a tax increase pushed by Democratic leadership.  His inspirational answer?  Um...er...I'll get back to you:

But will Massachusetts citizens have much of a problem with Markey's unflinching partisanship and tax raising credentials?  This is, you'll recall, the electorate that chose an truth-challenged, far-left ideologue over one of the most bipartisan members of the Senate in November.  It's true that off-year and special elections attract a distinctly different crowd than presidential elections do, but this is still Massachusetts.  It's conceivable that Markey could bumble his way into a shocking loss, but that doesn't seem especially likely at the moment.  Bonus question: Is Brown eyeing a comeback in neighboring New Hampshire, or does he have another prize in his sights?

Virginia Governor 
 - Last week, the Washington Post's political team upgraded Ken Cuccinelli's status in this race, calling him the emerging favorite.  They reached this assessment despite some -- shall we say, complicating factors -- elsewhere on the Republican ticket:

It’s starting to look more and more like Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) is the favorite here – at least to our eyes. Former DNC chairman Terry McAuliffe, quite simply, didn’t run a good primary campaign in 2009, and so far there are concerns that he hasn’t gotten much better. There’s plenty of chatter about new GOP lieutenant governor nominee E.W. Jackson’s totally unhelpful past statements, but Jackson’s race is separate from Cuccinelli’s, and there is precedence for Virginia voters splitting their tickets.

Why isn't McAuliffe gaining much traction while Republicans are playing defense over their Lt. Governor nominee's lengthy roster of inflammatory statements?  Put simply, McAuliffe is a really, really lousy candidate.  Liberal columnist Jonathan Chait describes the Democratic nominee thusly: "McAuliffe is a House of Cards character, only less articulate. Unlike most soulless hacks, he did not obtain his position through years of greasy pole climbing — he’s a novice in electoral politics whose only real power base is Beltway insiders. McAuliffe is the Democrat Democrats have been dying to vote against...It’s a testament to McAuliffe’s visceral loathsomeness that he’s starting off with a ten-point deficit against Crazy Ken Cuccinelli, in a state Barack Obama won twice."  

It's obvious that Chait is no fan of the conservative Cuccinelli, but his unsparing appraisal of McAuliffe is telling.  The oppo-research trove against McAuliffe is virtually bottomless; I'm told this ugliness is just the tip of a gargantuan iceberg.  His campaign's latest misfire involves grossly embellishing his role in the passage of Gov. McDonnell's tax-hiking infrastructure boondoggle, which Cuccinelli opposed.  Even key Democrats are casting doubt on McAuliffe's shameless credit-taking on this score, which their own nominee is attempting to inflate into a key selling point for himself.  I suppose McAuliffe would prefer to dwell on imaginary achievements rather than address his actual business record.  Finally, try to guess which Republican hatchet man said this of Terry McAuliffe: "[His] character is his greatest vulnerability."  Answer: Surprise

New Jersey Governor - Chris Christie isn't receiving many bouquets from grassroots conservatives these days -- especially since he's been hanging out with you-know-who again, -- but the New Jersey Republican remains on track to coast to re-election.  The Republican Governors Association just went up on air with a new ad attacking Christie's hapless opponent for doing what Democrats do:

Might the Buono campaign see this spot as progress?  At least she's being attacked by Republicans rather than fellow Democrats.