A Rejection of the Clintons? Hardly.

Posted: Jun 10, 2009 1:00 AM
Former Speaker of the House Tip O' Neill wrote a book several years ago entitled "All Politics is Local: And Other Rules of the Game." (In his book "Hardball," Chris Matthews noted that O'Neill came up with the famous phrase that headlined his former boss' book.) That phrase, so often repeated in political circles, emphasizes the importance of local issues in local, state and national politics. Although that idea continues to be true today, the failed campaign of Clinton advocate Terry McAuliffe in the Virginia Democratic Primary for Governor is likely to be seen as a symbol of the rejection of the Clintons by the Democrats of Virginia, who voted for then-Senator Barack Obama over Senator Hillary Clinton in last year's Democratic presidential primary. 

In yesterday's Democratic gubernatorial primary, Creigh Deeds, a politician known predominantly in Virginia easily beat Mr. McAuliffe and Brian Moran, for the nomination. Politico.com reported that  "The primary results were a brutal repudiation of the most famous man in the race: former Democratic National Committee Chairman and Clinton family friend Terry McAuliffe, who until recent days was widely seen as in command of the race." CNN.com noted that "McAuliffe, who campaigned in Virginia last year as Hillary Clinton’s finance chair, had run with the backing of national party leaders like Democratic Governor Association chair Brian Schweitzer, but was overtaken in the race’s final weeks by Deeds."  

So are the primary results a direct rejection of the Clintons and their relationship with their fierce ally? Not really. Although McAuliffe received support from former President Clinton, it is doubtful that voters went to the polls thinking about McAuliffe's association with the current Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former President Clinton. The election likely came down to local Virginia issues and an important editorial endorsement for Deeds from the Washington Post. As the Post noted tonight about the late Deeds surge that propelled him to victory, "Deeds, already known by Virginians in all corners of the state after his 2005 bid, began receiving the support of many undecided voters who were attracted to his pledge to bridge regional and partisan divides and invest in road and transit improvements."

Even in an Democratic primary election with a well-known national figure with high-profile friends known for raising money and finding strong political allies, the old O'Neill adage "All politics is local" continues to ring true.