Kenneth Cuccinelli II certainly fits right in with the other Virginia Republican candidates picked over the weekend at the party’s convention in Richmond. The slate of nominees come with the powerful aroma of the Tea Party.
Running for lieutenant governor is E.W. Jackson, an African American minister, Harvard Law School grad and grand-voiced speaker who exhorts that strict religious principles be the foundation for state politics. An avid right-to-lifer, Jackson has said that Planned Parenthood has killed more blacks than the Ku Klux Klan.
Mark D. Obenshain, a lawyer from Harrisonburg, will be the GOP candidate for attorney general. Loyally conservative, he is the son of Richard Obenshain, who helped build the modern Virginia Republican party by luring over conservatives who had been part of yesteryear’s Democratic machine. This helps Cuccinelli at the top of the ticket by giving the slate one foot solidly in the state’s political history.
It all sends an interesting signal. Cuccinelli has never been unclear about his message, but there had been hope that he might be something of a closet populist, given recent television ads projecting him as a regular guy who just wants to get the government off our backs and help small business. Or course, this also might have been a calculated move to the center designed to snare more moderate conservatives put off by some the strident stances he has taken over the years..
Well, you can’t get more strident than Bishop Jackson. I remember hearing his thundering voice as he spoke at a mostly white conclave of Tea Party people in piney-woods New Kent County a couple of years ago. He has had a variegated career, including the Marine Corps, Harvard Law, chaplain to Boston firefighters and so on. He’s a darling of the right-wing media and has been on Fox and been interviewed by Glenn Back.
So why the seance for the Tea Party glory years of 2010? The Internal Revenue Service has certainly helped on that score. The actions of the Cincinnati office of the IRS must be like an answered prayer to anyone hoping for a revival of the movement this year.
The ball’s now in the court of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe. Although one recent poll showed him ahead of Cuccinelli, he still needs progress if he’s to win the undecideds. In many ways, the GOP convention helps McAuliffe. Next on his agenda: getting a person of color as the party’s nominee for lieutenant governor. He’s got one candidate in Aneesh Paul Chopra, who was Virginia’s chief technology officer as well as Barack Obama’s.