Governor-elect Terry McAuliffe was a highly flawed candidate who squeaked through against a poor GOP nominee. Yes, “a win is a win,” but a great deal of humility is in order in the McAuliffe camp. Running a substance-less campaign, he lacks a precise mandate, but by the same token has some room to maneuver. Here are five things McAuliffe could do to get things off on the right footing:

Terry McAuliffe (Maddie Meyer/The Washington Post) Terry McAuliffe (Maddie Meyer/The Washington Post)

First, he’ll have to betray his base in order to govern with a GOP House of Delegates in a moderate state. That means no Medicaid expansion and budget frugality.

Second, he is barred by law from seeking reelection (at least consecutively), so he might as well take some risks. If Nixon could go to China, McAuliffe can expand school choice, lighten regulations and rid the tax code of special breaks and loopholes in exchange for some middle class tax relief. And if Gov. Bob McDonnell was the last person people expected to run into trouble on gifts, McAuliffe can be the unexpected author of ethics reform and a gift ban.

Third, he’d be wise to find some experienced Republicans who know their way around Richmond to help him. Select former congressman Tom Davis (R) as his chief of staff. Put Republicans in his cabinet. It will denote seriousness of purpose (often absent in his gubernatorial campaign) and true bipartisanship.

Fourth, sell his state as the best business locale on the East Coast. He’s the ultimate glad-hander, so he should start recruiting businesses to Virginia the way Gov. Rick Perry (R) does to Texas. Illinois, Maryland and California businesses are ripe for the picking.

Fifth, do something about higher education. The Virginia state universities are over-crowded and getting more expensive (no different from any other state). Middle class parents, especially those in Northern Virginia who supported him, are finding their kids locked out of in-state schools. Why not expand the state university system and/or set up STEM job accreditation programs at two-year community colleges?

McAuliffe, said his opponent, was always “about Terry” instead of Virginia. There is something too that, but McAuliffe starts with low expectations, a state roiling from the defense sequester and the government shutdown and nervous employers. He can show those Northern Virginia businessmen that a mainstream, business-friendly Democrat in the mold of former governor Mark Warner is better than an ideologue who thrives on confrontation and is perpetually looking over his shoulder for the approval of national right-wingers. He can step up his game and project serious leadership. He can impress those center-right and conservative voters who think very little of him, or he can live up to his reputation as a crass and superficial money man for the Clintons. Those of us who live in Virginia hope it’s the former.

Jennifer Rubin writes the Right Turn blog for The Post, offering reported opinion from a conservative perspective.
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