On Friday former Democratic National Committee chairman and Clinton confidant Terry McAuliffe (nicknamed the “Macker” by Republicans) announced that he is running for governor.
The Republican Governors Association could hardly believe its good fortune. Its spokesman sent out an e-mail blast that included this: “The [Democratic Governors Association] . . . sent out an — we think unintentionally hilarious — statement saying Terry has ‘has a proven record of . . . working across the aisle in the Commonwealth.’ Let’s get real: Terry McAuliffe has never held elected office (despite flirting with gubernatorial runs in New York and Florida) and he doesn’t have any record of working across the aisle in Virginia. In fact, his limited political experience in the Commonwealth consists almost exclusively of raising money to defeat Republicans!”
Other Republicans in the Commonwealth were likewise relieved that former governor and now Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) would apparently not be running for the slot. A Republican insider in Richmond e-mailed me, “Warner can have the Democratic gubernatorial nod with a snap of his fingers. The fact that Macker says he’s in means they’ve talked and Warner has passed.” As for whether current Lt. Gov. Bob Bolling or state Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli can beat McAuliffe remains to be seen. Nevertheless, whoever wins the nomination (to be decided at a state convention) will have a running start. The Virginia Republican said bluntly, “McAuliffe has major, major problems in Virginia.”
In fact, McAuliffe ran a spectacularly unsuccessfully primary race in 2009, spending an unprecedented $7.5 million to lose badly to Creigh Deeds, who went on to lose by 17 percent.
The major downside for Republicans in this case is that Gov. Bob McDonnell, one of the country’s most popular governors, has no obvious “next job” now that Warner will seek reelection and state law prohibits a consecutive term as governor. Does he work on party rebuilding and expansion? Plot a presidential run for 2016? Certainly his first task will be to elect a GOP successor (he’s backed Bolling), but beyond that McDonnell’s future in the GOP and the conservative movement more broadly is bright but uncertain. Thanks to McAuliffe the former just became a whole lot easier.