Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring’s ruling that undocumented Virginians who entered the state as children can qualify for in-state college tuition is another bold and praiseworthy effort to drag the Old Dominion into the new age.
His comments on gay marriage this winter foreshadowed a U.S. district judge’s decision in Norfolk that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional.
Both moves garnered the strong displeasure of state Republicans and positive national attention for Herring and Terry McAuliffe’s administration. But I am getting worried.
These bold plays don’t seem to be building much of a base for the inexperienced McAuliffe as he tries to push through his agenda against strong and stubborn opposition from Republicans in the House of Delegates, who seem to be winning the battle over expanding Medicaid under the provisions of the Affordable Care Act.
I was out of town part of last week, but I was taken aback by a poll by Christopher Newport University showing a switch in voter attitudes about expanding Medicaid for up to 400,000 Virginians. In February, a poll by the school found that a majority of voters favored Medicaid expansion, 56 to 38 percent. By April, it had switched to 53 percent opposed and 41 percent in favor.
Quentin Kidd, the CNU political scientist who oversaw the poll, says the Republicans are winning the Medicaid debate. He is likely correct, and the fault is McAuliffe’s. While the governor has visited hospitals and met with legislators time and again, he cannot break the stone wall put up by House Speak William Howell, who is willing to threaten a government shutdown on July 1 over expanding Medicaid.
McAuliffe should have been airing ad after ad showing how people caught in the Medicaid gap are suffering, but I haven’t seen many.
Now, there’s talk of a “June surprise” being cooked up by Herring that could allow McAuliffe to use some kind of executive authority to keep government running without a budget.
At this stage, doing so would be more an admission of failure than a bold move. Herring seems to have taken the initiative, but I am afraid McAuliffe has lost it. With other polls showing President Obama losing favor, the combination could help the GOP come November.