The Chicago Way: Virginia Democrats Threaten Group for Endorsing Republican

Posted: Sep 17, 2013 3:20 PM

A seemingly innocuous endorsement in Virginia's gubernatorial race touched off a nasty round of recriminations this week, courtesy of Terry McAuliffe's allies.  A conservative ad campaign in the Commonwealth is urging voters not to allow Democrats to "Detroit" the state.  Perhaps Virginians should be equally as concerned about the Left's importation of toxic, Chicago-style intimidation politics, which appear to be seeping across the Potomac. Via Mary Katharine Ham, whose write-up of this controversy is hilarious and excellent:

High-powered Terry McAuliffe supporters made a furious attempt over the weekend to reverse a Washington area business group’s endorsement of Republican Ken Cuccinelli II for governor, with state legislators warning that “doors will be closed” to the group if it sticks by its choice.The pressure exerted on the Northern Virginia Technology Council’s political arm, Tech PAC...suggests that McAuliffe’s campaign is worried that a Cuccinelli endorsement could undermine the central premise of the Democrat’s campaign — that he, an entrepreneur who started his first venture at 14, is the pro-business candidate and that Cuccinelli, a social conservative popular with the tea party, is too extreme for the state’s centrist business leaders. The reasoning behind the NVTC TechPAC’s nod — Cuccinelli had detailed responses to questions in candidate interviews, three board members said, while McAuliffe was uninformed and superficial — bolsters the view that the Democrat’s breezy style doesn’t sit well with some Virginians.... 

Several people with knowledge of the proceedings said they were shocked at his mishandling of the endorsement process itself — and his misread of the serious and thoughtful approach to the issues that the council was expecting to hear from both candidates...E-mails obtained by The Post make clear that the lobbying effort on McAuliffe’s behalf was intense.  “I urge you to stop any endorsement of Cuccinelli,” state Sen. Janet D. Howell (D-Fairfax), told PAC leaders Friday in an e-mail. “The ramifications of his being endorsed will be huge within the Senate Democratic caucus. .?.?. The response [from legislators] will be frigid and doors will be closed [when the council seeks help with its legislative agenda]. Achieving the goals of NVTC will be difficult to impossible.

Democrats are furious that the tech group had the audacity to take a pass on endorsing McAuliffe -- whose GreenTech auto company has failed miserably and is under federal investigation.  Maybe the goon squad would be better served directing their anger at their preferred candidate, who had a fair shot at winning the PAC's nod -- and completely fumbled it:

Cuccinelli impressed the board’s majority as a serious, detail-oriented candidate while McAuliffe seemed to wing it, according to three board members present for the interviews who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak frankly.  “Terry was his normal, flamboyant self,” said a board member present for both interviews. “He didn’t want to get pinned down to any details. 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, and he didn’t agree with the council on all the issues.”  Two people present said that in response to a question about how he’d accomplish his goals as governor, 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.’ 

So Cuccinelli was serious, responsive and precise.  McAuliffe launched into his back-slapping "let's grab some booze!" routine, offered few details, and utterly flubbed a policy question.  Yet the McAuliffe campaign is enraged that the organization would dare to side with the better-prepared candidate.  As retribution, they've unleashed their buddies to issue acidic, unsubtle threats regarding the viability of the PAC's umbrella organization.  Is this how Virginia politics would operate under a McAuliffe administration?  Rank incompetence, paired with ham-fisted bullying?  The Democrat openly admits that he doesn't understand the intricacies of state issues and isn't interested in reading legislation -- but he's already spoiling for a government shutdown fight with the legislature.  But hey, at least there'd be beer.  The Washington Post wonders if McAuliffe's stooge-like reaction to whiffing on an endorsement might be far more trouble than it's worth: "The McAuliffe camp’s effort to reverse the endorsement was seen by some as an overreaction that will only draw attention to a development that is of limited interest to the average voter."  This is undeniable.  Would, say, this very post ever have been written if Democrats had simply shrugged off Tech PAC's decision?  Nope.  A few additional thoughts on this episode, and the race in general:

Elsewhere in the Post article, it's revealed that Virginia's Republican Lt. Governor Bill Bolling, who was passed over for the party's nomination, is actively undermining Cuccinelli.  Shame on him, and his sour grapes.  

It is surreal that one of the McAuliffe camp's "central premises" -- that he's a successful Virginia businessman -- remains even fractionally viable.  In launching GreenTech, McAuliffe bypassed Virginia after the state declined to offer his company special incentives, based on worrisome "national security implications."  He instead anchored the firm in Mississippi, where it has floundered badly.  GreenTech barely has a pulse today.  And those aforementioned national security concerns?  They've spawned multiple federalinvestigations. In short, Team Terry went nuclear on TechPAC in order to protect a fiction.

(3) Several political handicappers have shifted this race from a toss-up to "leans Democrat" over the last few weeks, as McAuliffe holds single-digit leads in virtually every poll of the race. But Hotline's latest analysis of the race cuts against the conventional wisdom and argues that the contest is still very much "up for grabs."  I'll leave you with this, from a veteran Virginia-based political analyst: 

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