Chris Graham: Do Dems have a chance in 2013?
How can that be, you might ask.
It’s a good question. The best answer: Other than the increasingly unlikely gubernatorial candidacy of Mark Warner, Democrats have little to offer voters in terms of candidates with any kind of a track record.
Tom Perriello and Terry McAuliffe are the two men whose names are most often mentioned as the top gubernatorial candidates on the Democratic side. The sum total of their elected-office experience lies in Perriello’s single term as the Fifth District congressman. McAuliffe, meanwhile, for all of his accomplishments in business and in raising money in prodigious amounts for Democratic candidates, is quite noticeably light in the public-policy sphere.
And then after those two … well …
Jim Webb is retiring from the U.S. Senate. Creigh Deeds was thisclose to knocking off Bob McDonnell in the 2005 attorney-general race, before upsetting McAuliffe and Brian Moran to win the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in 2009 and then getting the doors blown off by McDonnell in the 2009 goveror’s race.
Then there’s Moran, whose claim to fame most recently is coming up short in the 2009 gubernatorial-nomination battle, and to his credit breathing new life into the Democratic Party of Virginia as its chairman.
And then there’s Warner, who might be mulling over a run at the Democratic Party presidential nomination in 2016, and thus might not want to do so as a sitting governor with actual responsibilities as opposed to being a senator responsible for … whatever it is that senators are responsible for.
Down ticket, Democrats seem constitutionally incapable of winning an attorney-general race – not having done so since Mary Sue Terry won her second consecutive election as AG in 1989 – and Republicans have also won three of the last four lieutenant-governor races, though the only one of those four winners to ultimately win a governor’s race was Kaine, a Democrat.
The fates of the two men who won the three Republican LG terms is noteworthy in that John Hager never got the chance to run for governor, coming up short in a contentious GOP nomination process in 2001 that cleared the way for Warner’s upset win over Mark Earley, and Bill Bolling may very well follow suit as a Virginia lieutenant governor who never runs for governor given his current second-banana status for the Republican nomination vis-a-vis Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.
A Cuccinelli nomination might be the only thing that Democrats have going in 2013. A favorite of the far right, Cuccinelli may prove to be too toxic for a general-election voting electorate, which in Virginia in recent cycles has been rewarding the more business-friendly candidates at the expense of the ideologues.
That open door aside, it’s still hard to imagine Democrats fielding candidates for lieutenant governor and attorney general who won’t go into the fall of 2013 as heavy underdogs.
The game-changer: an unlikely Warner gubernatorial candidacy.
As unlikely as it is to foresee at this point, a Warner run is probably the only way to guarantee that Democrats have any chance next November.