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Top Democrats bungle response to Tom Perriello

tom perrielloVirginia Democrats, in responding to the news that Tom Perriello is going to run for governor, are showing themselves to be tone-deaf.

Because, see, the party hierarchy had already anointed Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam as the gubernatorial nominee.

And you remember how Democratic Party hierarchy anointing a candidate just worked out in the presidential race.

Yeah, not so good, there.

So, anyway. Northam is the guy, and now Perriello is upsetting the apple cart.

How dare he, right? The stars are aligning around Northam, after all.


Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Sen. Mark Warner, Sen. Tim Kaine, among others, they’re all on board.

One little problem: you haven’t heard of Northam.

Sure, he was elected in 2013, but that’s OK.

The most recent polling on the 2017 governor race has 76 percent of you telling the guy on the phone that you don’t know enough about him to have an opinion on him one way or the other.

A small problem, that one.

More important, to the Democratic hierarchy folks, is that Northam and the sitting attorney general, Mark Herring, worked out a deal in 2015 to prevent the kind of in-fighting that doomed Republicans in 2013, when then-Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling was outmaneuvered for the GOP gubernatorial nomination by then-Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, ahead of Cuccinelli’s narrow loss in the general to McAuliffe.

You remember that election. Cuccinelli was the Donald Trump of that race, issuing all kinds of crazy pronouncements, and trailed badly in the polls in the weeks, days and hours leading up to Election Day, before losing by an eyelash.

This before Republicans wisened up, ran a much less Trump-ian candidate against the bipartisanly-popular Warner in 2014, in the form of Gillespie, who also trailed big-time in the polls and came within half an eyelash of pulling the monumental upset.

Egads, indeed.

While it might be hard to argue with the recent results, three statewide office holders who are Dems, two U.S. senators who are Dems, three straight wins for Dems in presidential races, we’re not talking blowout wins here.

Gillespie seems poised to get the Republican nomination, and Gillespie almost retired Warner, despite Warner’s approval numbers in the exit polls in 2014 being near all-time highs.

Ralph Northam, God love him, ain’t Mark Warner.

Neither, for that matter, is Tom Perriello, who also ain’t Bernie Sanders, but one thing Perriello is, is a known entity with the Democratic base.

Perriello is an authentic progressive who didn’t lead a single poll in his 2008 congressional race against Virgil Goode, who once led the youngster by 29 points in the early polling that year, and led by 10 in the walkup to Election Day.

Did I mention that the Fifth District that Perriello won that year is drawn up to be safe Republican? Yes, it includes the People’s Republic of Charlottesville, but the Fifth rides down Route 29 all the way down to Danville, past one small town after another after another.

Perriello would serve only one term, getting swept out of office in the 2010 Tea Party wave, but it should be to his credit that he didn’t let the pending wave water down his politics while in office. As other Democrats in Republican districts waffled over what to do in votes on the Obama agenda, most notably the Affordable Care Act, Perriello was solidly in the progressive camp all the way.

Which will endear him to the base, if not the party hierarchy, who are playing the role of Tammany Hall in doubling down in their support of Northam, the amiable fellow none of the rest of us know, and unfortunately for him is about to be vilified by progressives who sense a repeat of the Hillary-Bernie saga of 2016 ready to be played out in front of them.

Seems that the hierarchy has learned nothing from 2016.

Again, egads.

Column by Chris Graham

  • frankoanderson

    Where in this article is there a single example of a “response” to Tom Perriello? The headline is kind of misleading.

    • I’m assuming you’ve read either the article that we posted earlier in the day on the Perriello announcement, or one of the many written and posted elsewhere.

      • frankoanderson

        Not a regular reader of AFP but I have read other articles and have just now looked at your earlier one as well. Just saying that this article makes no mention nor does it link to reporting on anyone’s response.
        My view? Primaries are a good thing. And this is coming from someone who worked for a losing candidate in the primary of 2009.

        • I’ll add links. Writing this today right after putting together the report on the Perriello announcement, I was trying to avoid being repetitive.

          I backed a losing candidate in ’09, FWIW, and struggled in the national races in ’08 and ’16 to sort through the calculus and reconcile my personal views relative to the calculus.

          Which is to say, I tend to get it wrong as often as I get it right, probably more on the wrong side. (I’ve also run, unsuccessfully, for local office, a lifetime ago.)

  • ToddSmyth

    This is really out of line. With that headline you should have specific quotes from specific “Top Democrats” that support the primary claim in the headline and you have nothing remotely close to that. That is seriously irresponsible. How about next headline: “Augusta Press is Fake News” ?

    • How about the next headline: “Todd Smyth doesn’t understand the concept of links, and how to click on them.”

      Dude, seriously. Get over yourself. If I’m wrong in suggesting that top Democrats are sticking to their support of Ralph Northam, in the face of statements from their spokespeople that they are, and the incendiary comment in the linked article (that we wrote!) from the State Senate minority leader, then point that out.

      Or … go start your fire somewhere else.

      Fake news. Right.

      • ToddSmyth

        Dude, seriously how is sticking with your candidate bungling a response? I suspect you didn’t include Saslaw’s quote because you can’t explain how he is wrong and you didn’t even try. Perriello jumped in at the last minute and took people by surprise any you manufactured it into click bait. Congratulations.

        • So … we’ve gone from this being “fake news” to “I don’t agree with your commentary.”

          Thanks for that clarification.

          • ToddSmyth

            No, you didn’t use actual quotes in your article because they didn’t support the claim in your headline. So you made broad generalizations and inferences with links that also did not support your headline to manufacture something that is not true. Fake News.

          • We get it, “ToddSmyth,” if that is your real name. You don’t agree with the commentary. Doesn’t make it “fake news.” No claims here that Ralph Northam is leading a pedophile ring. Just offering the perspective that top Virginia Democrats (I assume Dick Saslaw, Terry McAuliffe, Mark Warner and Tim Kaine qualify as such) are off base in the response to the Perriello gubernatorial candidacy. Which is to say, the proper response would be to say something along the lines of, Welcome, Tom, run a good race, and if you get the nomination, we got your back.

          • ToddSmyth

            Exactly how did Terry McAuliffe, Mark Warner and/or Tim Kaine “bungle [their] response to Tom Perriello”?

          • By endorsing Northam in the first place. Why endorse in a race that you assume is going to be a fait accompli? Unless you’re doing so to forestall something like a Perriello candidacy from materializing in the first place. (Dragging you into the perimeter of wisdom here.)

            Once Perriello formally entered the race, the best approach from the top guys would have been to welcome him into the race, and otherwise back away, slowly. This guy could very well be the nominee, despite Dick Saslaw’s nonsense.

            The response from officialdom here, both in endorsing Northam in the first place, and sticking to it after, has the effect of making this look like the DNC deciding that Hillary Clinton was the presidential nominee before the 2016 primaries.

            It appears that Democratic Party leaders have not learned the lessons of the mistakes of 2016, and are doomed to repeat them.