I’ve made no secret that I am not a fan of Terry McAuliffe. I think his leadership of the Democratic National Committee was suspect and I think his behavior during the 2008 Democratic presidential primary damaged the campaign of then-Sen. Hillary Clinton, perhaps fatally. In many respects, Mr. McAuliffe represents everything I hate about Democratic politics.
I also don’t believe he has any history of involvement in the Virginia Democratic Party or his community. No doubt he’s an effective salesman — he’s made a ton of money in business and raised great sums for Democratic campaigns across the country. But given his lack of history in Virginia, I think it’s reasonable to conclude he’s trying to buy his way into the governor’s office.
Tonight, Not Larry Sabato, a well regarded blog which reports on Virginia politics, hosted Mr. McAuliffe for a live blogging question and answer session. I commend NLS and Mr. McAuliffe for reaching out to Democratic voters in this manner. It presented Mr. McAuliffe with a wonderful opportunity to dispell the negative impressions I have of him and his candidacy.
Unfortunately for Mr. McAuliffe, tonight he only reinforced those negative impressions. He also raised new concerns with me about his suitability to be our next governor.
After making some opening remarks and describing his campaign strategy – “our campaign has already put 40 field organizers on the ground” – Mr. McAuliffe then said he would lobby for Virginia Tech’s basketball team to be admitted into the NCAA tournament. He added, “when I’m governor, I promise you that a Virginia school will win the NCAA championship for four straight years!!”
Then he dodged a question about his flirtations with a run to become governor of Florida before exclaiming his feelings about Mardi Gras — “I love my jambalaya hot and spicy — with a cold beer.”
After weighing in on Mardi Gras, Mr. McAuliffe answered a serious question about remarks made by his opponent Brian Moran. I’ve included the entire question and answer because I found the exchange to be very revealing.
Q: In his JJ speech, Brian Moran took several loosely-veiled shots at your background as a fundraiser and your lack of direct involvement in Virginia politics. How do you respond to Brian’s remarks and why do you feel you are qualified to lead the Commonwealth after having focused your career on national politics? Thanks and good luck with the race.
A: In response to John’s question about the JJ dinner: For the past 30 years, the issues I’ve been fighting on are not national issues, but issues that affect everyone — issues like quality health care, education, the environment, and renewable energy. I believe that Brian is a good Democrat and served the Commonwealth well in the House of Delegates. I will never say a bad word about another Democrat. (Emphasis added.)
Virginia is facing unprecedented economic challenges. Everywhere I go, people tell me that they want a governor who can create jobs and get our economy going again. I have spent my career starting businesses and creating jobs- I believe this is the experience Virginians want in their next Governor.
At that point, when I read, “I will never say a bad word about another Democrat” I had to stop.
Did he mean, from this point on? Or is that just his general policy? Does he not remember his frequent appearances on cable television news criticizing Barack Obama, rather than George W. Bush? What about everything he said during the DNC dispute over the Florida and Michigan delegations? Do we need to parse this sentence in the same way we had to parse President’s Clinton’s statements about Monica Lewinsky? (“It depends on what your definition of is is.”)
I’m sorry, that remark just doesn’t pass the smell test with me. As an early Obama supporter, I have vivid memories of Mr. McAuliffe’s behavior during his efforts to support Hillary Clinton’s campaign. They are not fond ones.
Personally, I don’t have a problem with candidates criticizing one another — that’s how elections are won. But Mr. McAuliffe’s statement tonight isn’t easily reconciled with his history.
Furthermore, what does it say about his candidacy, if he opts to address questions about Va. Tech basketball and Mardi Gras before saying a word about the state’s fiscal crisis and the state’s budget, which still needs to finalized and sent to Governor Kaine before the end of the month? We’ve got a $3.7 Billion budget shortfall and his plan to address it isn’t more important than college basketball and Mardi Gras? Seriously?
After answering a question about his dogs — he has two; Daisy, a Bichon Frise mix and Finnegan, a Golden Retriever — he addressed some more serioues topics. He fielded questions on Dominion Power, his investments in Global Crossing, his business background and the smoking ban bill. But really he offered nothing of substance about the budget crisis or anything else really.
Honestly, I don’t think the session served him well. I’ve counted up more than 50 questions which were submitted during the session and he answered 10. (That includes 3 on college basketball, Mardi Gras and his dogs.)
I also think that right now, Governor Kaine isn’t spend his time worrying about college basketball, Mardi Gras or his dogs. But what do you think? Are my biases against McAuliffe’s candidacy unfair? Should I give him a chance?
I’ll be honest with you, despite the serious political differences I have with Bob McDonnell, I would give him strong consideration if our party were to nominate Terry McAuliffe to be our gubernatorial candidate in November.