Terry McAuliffe squirms

The most tasty political race this year takes place in Virginia, where Democrat Terry McAuliffe seeks a return to the governor’s mansion. His opponent is Glenn Youngkin.

McAuliffe is one of the great rogues of American politics. He’s an old school Democratic pol, which makes him preferable to the new, more rigidly ideological kind, though not by much.

All politicians like power, but McAuliffe likes it more than most. How can we tell? In Virginia, governors must step aside after one term, but they can run again later on.

Very few do. If he wins, McAuliffe will be the first Virginia governor since Miles Godwin to serve two terms. Godwin served from 1966-1970 and 1974-1978 — one term as a Democrat and one as a Republican. Before that, you have to go back to the 19th century.

We’ve know for some time that McAuliffe is in a tough race. However, my working assumption has been that he’ll squeak by, Virginia having become essentially a blue state.

In last debate with Youngkin, however, McAuliffe opined that parents shouldn’t be telling schools what to teach their children. This statement may have shifted the race in Youngkin’s favor, and I no longer assume McAuliffe will win.

Last night two smart, politically knowledgeable Virginia residents told me they believe Youngkin will win. I’m on the fence, but find it interesting that McAuliffe is now complaining that Joe Biden is dragging him down. He’s probably right, but it occurs to me that candidates who think they will win don’t start blaming their party’s president for their woes.

Earlier in this race, the political class thought that if any national figure pulled either candidate down, it would be Trump burdening Youngkin. Much of McAuliffe’s campaign has been built around tying to Youngkin to Trump.

Youngkin has maintained some distance from Trump. He’s trying to walk that narrow, but hopefully walkable, line between alienating Trump’s base of support and turning off suburban voters. Both groups are needed for him to prevail.

McAuliffe has hammered Trump for claiming that he won the 2020 presidential election. Youngkin tried not to take a position on Trump’s claim. I’m not sure why he should have to. The claim has no relevance when it comes to governing Virginia, nor is Youngkin in a position to know the extent to which voting irregularities affected the outcome. He’s shouldn’t be required to adopt the medias view that Trump’s claim is baseless, any more than he’s required to adopt Trump’s view that he was robbed.

Recently, though, Youngkin has stated that he would have voted to certify the election, which is not the same thing as rejecting the merit of Trump’s claims of outcome-determinative fraud. (He also rejects claim that the 2020 election in Virginia was marred by fraud.) Whether this will be enough to keep Trump’s core supporters in line and placate swing voters who can’t stand Trump is unclear.

McAuliffe, though, has a problem when it comes to attacking Youngkin, or Trump, for not accepting the view that Joe Biden won the 2020 election fair and square. McAuliffe himself did not accept George W. Bush’s victory in the 2000 election.

In fact, McAuliffe stated from the podium of the 2004 Democratic National Convention that the 2000 election was stolen from Al Gore. And apparently, he still has not repudiated this claim. According to Dan McLaughlin, all McAuliffe will say is that Bush became president.

Yes, he did. So did Joe Biden. Even Trump agrees that this happened.

McAuliffe has tried to distinguish his claim that Bush didn’t really win from Trump’s claim that Biden didn’t really win. McLaughlin shows that these attempts are futile and border on the absurd.

My favorite attempt is McAuliffe’s reminder that he was Democratic party chairman in 2004. He seems to be saying it was his job to reject the outcome of the 2000 election.

I’m not sure why. Few party chairmen have felt compelled to make such claims about the last election.

Moreover, as McLaughlin says, McAuliffe’s “defense” not only reminds voters that he’s a political operative to the core, it robs his attack on Youngkin of any moral force. He’s acknowledging that if he had been chairman of the Republican Party between November 2020 and January 2021, he would have claimed that the 2020 election was stolen — a claim, by the way, that Youngkin isn’t making.

Let’s hope this campaign is the last we hear of sleazy Terry McAuliffe.

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