Yes, I know he 2015 elections are over, but let’s just do one more victory lap over the Republicans’ win in Virginia, where Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe will have to deal with a Republican legislature until the end of his term. That means no votes for Medicaid expansion, no votes for new gun control laws, torpedoing the notion that his 2013 win showed gun control is a winning issue for Democrats.
The State House of Delegates was already going to be retained by Republicans. That was a forgone conclusion. At the end of the evening, the lower chamber kept it GOP supermajority. The State Senate was a different story. All McAuliffe needed was a one-seat gain, hence why Senate District 10 became “ground zero” in that fight. That seat was held by Republican Glen Sturtevant, who, thus gave McAuliffe the coveted “worst week in Washington” ruling from the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza:
With the state House firmly in Republican control, McAuliffe saw a Democratic takeover of the Senate as perhaps his only chance to craft any sort of legacy — a la the budget deal then-Gov. Mark Warner (D) cut in 2004.
“It makes a lot of difference,” McAuliffe told a local TV station in the run-up to the vote. “If I have one chamber that will work with me, then it puts a lot of pressure on the other chamber if one chamber passes safe gun restrictions, investments in K through 12, investments in pre-K.”
As Christine wrote last month, investments in Pre-K might be overrated. Moreover, the fact that McAuliffe gave it his all and still wasn’t able to retake the state Senate might have undercut the notion that Virginia is trending blue (via Charles Cooke):
Virginia is now a “purple state,” and the Democratic party has a good shot of winning it next year, especially if turnout is high. But there is no reason to believe that gun control and Obamacare will be magically more popular when peddled by Hillary Clinton than they are when offered by Terry McAuliffe, particularly if Republicans nominate an attractive candidate of their own. As Ed Morrissey notes today on Hot Air, the combination of yesterday’s result and the near-upset in the 2014 Senate race have left many wondering whether Virginia is trending quite as blue as had previously been thought. “Governor McAuliffe threw everything he had into this,” Larry Sabato observed, “but came up short.”
In all, the Associated Press reported that over $43 million was spent on Virginia’s state senate races a week before Election Day, which is often underreported. This plays into the evolving narrative that Democrats are starting to get that state and local races matter, though they have a large mountain to climb regarding rebuilding on that front (or not).
Former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg decided it was prudent for his pro-gun control Everytown group to torch $2.4 million in Virginia. It did pay off by electing 92 percent of the NRA-endorsed slate in the Old Dominion. I’ll rehash the 2013 op-ed from now-Attorney General Mark Herring’s campaign manager, who said Herring won by running on gun control:
The National Rifle Association ran commercials against Herring, but its messages were directed at voters who our own polling showed were never accessible to Herring. The NRA avoided the largest concentrations of swing voters in the Northern Virginia, Norfolk and Richmond markets. That is not a recipe for growth or success.
The swing vote began to shift dramatically in our favor at the end. When the ballots were counted in Northern Virginia, Herring not only beat Obenshain there by more than 100,000 votes, but he also increased the total Democratic vote in Northern Virginia for attorney general by more than 124,000 since the last election. A post-election survey of voters in Northern Virginia by the Global Strategy Group indicated that 57 percent of those who voted for Herring in Northern Virginia believe gun issues had a major impact on the way they voted.
It’s funny how the full vote count is omitted. Herring faced off against Republican State Sen. Mark Obenshain that year. Herring got 1,103,777 votes; Obenshain got 1,103,612 votes. A 165-vote difference is a sign of a mandate? It’s indicative that the top of the ticket, Ken Cuccinelli, wasn’t the best candidate for governor in 2013–and he possibly dragged down the rest of the slate. That, coupled with a lieutenant governor who thought yoga leads to Satan, only magnified Cuccinelli’s perception that he was too conservative* for the state. In the end, the Democrats’ 2013 win was just a fluke, especially when it comes to this half-baked theory that a 165-vote win margin has any significance concerning whether running on gun control was a contributing factor to victory. It obviously wasn’t.
*We all know that Cuccinelli's 55,220-vote loss to McAuliffe shows that he wasn't too conservative–and Rob Sarvis actually wasn't a spoiler. If Cuccinelli was able to match Romney's numbers with white men, women, and wealthy voters (those making over $100k), he probably would have won comfortably.