Analysis: End of the Mark Warner pipe dream
The latest Quinnipiac survey of Virginia voters has Warner leading Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli by 18 percent and leading Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling by 20 percent.
It’s not whether Terry McAuliffe’s announcement last week that he was throwing his hat into the ring for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination is a sign that Warner in fact has already made up his mind about whether he plans to run for governor next year.
He clearly already has. McAuliffe was born at night, but it wasn’t last night. He knows that a run against Warner is akin to political suicide.
For that matter, so do Bolling and Cuccinelli. One would have to seriously question whether one or both would step aside to allow someone else to take the beating that would come.
Cuccinelli would have an easier time at that. Bolling has been our part-time lieutenant governor for going on eight years now. For him, 2013 is the year that he runs for governor, or the year that he gets on with the rest of his life.
But we’re still not to what the real question is.
Ahem. To the real question …
What do Democrats do next week when Warner makes it official that he’s not running for governor in 2013?
Certainly not celebrate. The party that wins the state’s presidential electoral votes has lost the governor’s race the next year in every election cycle dating back to 1976-1977. Quinnipiac has McAuliffe leading Cuccinelli, the putative frontrunner on the GOP side, by four points, while McAuliffe and Bolling are running basically even.
Things looked much better for Democrats at this stage in the immediate aftermath of the 2008 elections, if you recall. Virginia, by all accounts, was finally turning blue, even as it wasn’t. Less than 12 months later, Bob McDonnell led a statewide landslide sweep of the three statewide offices, leaving the Democratic Party in a tatters that continued in 2010 with losses in that year’s congressional elections, and in 2011, when Democrats lost control of the State Senate that they had won back just four years earlier.
Not to diminish the powers of McAuliffe, but only a Warner candidacy can guarantee that the reversal of fortunes for Democrats seen in the 2008-2009 cycle won’t be repeated in 2012-2013.
A Warner candidacy includes gains for Democrats in the House and prospects for more gains in the 2015 cycle along with the strong possibility that Dems retake the State Senate.
On the flip side, it also foretells the Senate candidacy in 2014 of McDonnell, who otherwise has reached his glass ceiling and will quietly exit stage left until a 2018 challenge of Tim Kaine for the Senate seat that he won earlier this month.
McDonnell would enter a 2014 race against the likes of McAuliffe or former Fifth District Congressman Tom Perriello as the heavy favorite in a midterm cycle likely to be very favorable to Repubilcans as voters scrach their sixth-year Obama itch.
But that’s all conjecture at this point, because Warner isn’t going to open that door for Obama, or for Democrats looking to rebuild after another successful even-year election. Warner and Kaine, the big kahunas in the Virginia Democratic Party, are now safely ensconced in the Senate, and the fact that the Democratic bench behind them is basically empty is someone else’s problem.