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Multimedia | Be careful what your surrogate says on your behalf

It wasn’t exactly Macaca. “You have two jobs,” former Republican Party presidential-nomination candidate Mike Huckabee told a gathering of GOP faithful in Tazewell County while campaigning for Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell this week. “One, get all those people who are going to vote for Bob out to the polls and vote. If they’re not going to vote for Bob, you have another job. Let the air out of their tires and do not let them out of their driveway on Election Day. Keep ’em home. Do the Lord’s work, my friend. I’m giving you an opportunity…yes, do the right thing.”

It was an offhand remark, just like we heard from Democratic Congressman Gerry Connolly back in January when he made a similar comment about telling Republican voters the wrong date for a special election in Fairfax County, neither being anywhere near as sinister as the flyers that were distributed in Hampton Roads last fall that said Republicans and Democrats were to vote on different days to cut down on lines at the polls.

Which isn’t to say that it hasn’t quickly become fodder for the political grist mill.

“Let’s be clear: There are no jokes to be made about denying people the right to vote in this country. It’s not a laughing matter. This is a right that people fought and died for, so as public figures, we must be sure that we are setting the standard,” Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe said in a statement. “We should be making it easier, not harder to vote. Unfortunately, Bob McDonnell has been a part of the problem. In addition to opposing measures like the motor voter law, he stood by silently when the House of Delegates recently voted down early voting and the no excuse absentee legislation. Now he is standing by silently as Mike Huckabee encourages his supporters to suppress the vote,” McAuliffe said.

Something else Foot-In-His-Mouth-A-Bee said in Tazewell could be somewhat more damaging long term. “You can’t let one vote get left behind here, because there’s gonna be some folks up there near the Beltway, and I need to let you know – I’m sure you already know this – they aren’t necessarily thinking the same way folks like you and me think,” Huckabee said by way of disparaging Northern Virginia, which just happens to be where elections in Virginia are decided these days. “They really believe that we oughta just be really nice and not ever dig into the earth and get our energy out of there. I guess it’s OK to get it out of somebody else’s earth, just not our own. They have never fully understood how hard it is for a lot of people to put a paycheck together, be able to feed a family,” Huckabee said.

Democratic Party leaders are calling on McDonnell to condemn the Huckabee comments. “Virginians are tired of the same old politics that tries to slice-and-dice our Commonwealth,” Democratic Party chairman Dick Cranwell said. “From Northern Virginia to Tazewell County, all Virginians have similar hopes, dreams and challenges. Bob McDonnell should stand up and condemn Mike Huckabee’s divisive remarks.”

“All across Virginia, people are facing economic challenges,” State Sen. Mary Margaret Whipple said. “Here in Northern Virginia, I talk to constituents every day who are trying to make ends meet. We need to be united against these challenges – not divided. Bob McDonnell’s campaign is off to a bad start, when it comes to uniting Virginians in facing our economic challenges.”

In the wake of Macacagate, you’d think that the Huckabees and Connollys and Joe McCains (remember his similarly tone-deaf comments about NoVa last fall?) of the world would know not to feed the Internet and YouTube beast. The Huckster, in particular, could stand to learn this lesson, if he thinks himself a serious candidate for the GOP presidential nomination in 2012, anyway. Huckabee had appeal in the South and in more rural areas in the Mid-Atlantic and Midwest in ’08, but he ain’t a Populist, and this ain’t the 1890s. It’s been a long, long time since anybody could play the rural in rural-vs.-urban politics and hope to be able to do more than represent a state-legislative district.

His effectiveness as a McDonnell surrogate is probably shot at this point, and McDonnell would seem to me to have some kissing and making up to do in NoVa if he wants to avoid the fates of McCain and Jim Gilmore in ’08 and Jerry Kilgore in ’05. Because we haven’t been seeing many of those people who hug trees and don’t know what it takes to feed a family voting Republican anytime recently.


Column by Chris Graham