Monday, August 31, 2009

Bob McDonnell Going For The Trifecta (Snark)

That's certainly what former Virginia State GOP Chairman, Patrick M. McSweeney, thinks:

"There are three ways to lose," said Patrick M. McSweeney, a former state GOP chairman and a standard-bearer of the party's right wing. "One is you can state a position that is controversial and offend a lot of people. Second,you can not take a position and offend people who want leaders. And third, you can back away from a previously held view. But the worst thing to do is to lose votes in all three of those areas." That, McSweeney said, is what McDonnell risks.

Check out the article in the Washington Post for more. (Hat Tip: Gardner, Helderman, and Kumar)

Massively good times.

McDonnell's Stunning Lack of Honesty

For anyone who wants to fully appreciate how dishonest Bob McDonnell's campaign has been, just consider his response today to the Thesis Scandal, focusing on the issue of homosexuality.

According to the Washington Post, McDonnell said in the thesis, "Government policy should favor married couples over 'cohabitators, homosexuals or fornicators.'"

McDonnell, however, wants us to believe the opinions he expressed twenty years ago are not the opinions he holds today; that he has changed. According to a report from MSNBC, here is what Bob said today during a conference call with both Virginian and national reporters:
McDonnell said his beliefs against same-sex marriage had not changed, though "any other normal civil liberties should be fully protected" for gay couples.

Oh, okay, so since writing in 1989 at the age of 34 that government policy should discriminate in favor of married couples over homosexuals, we should be able to see McDonnell's development over the years to his current enlightened position that other civil liberties should be fully protects. Civil liberties such as being free of discrimination in hiring, or in being accepted to college, or in being able to serve as a judge or other public servant, or in being able to form a civil union recognized by law and all its attendant protections with a lifelong partner that you love -- civil liberties that most of us take for granted.

Unfortunately, Bob McDonnell's record over the years says -- no, it loudly screams -- something else entirely.

* in 2004, Mr. McDonnell sought to block the reappointment of a Newport News Circuit Judge named Verbina Askew because she was allegedly gay. McDonnell, of course, is not an idiot. He went to great pains to assert that the judge’s sexual orientation did not matter to him; rather, the fact that she may have violated Virginia anti-sodomy statute in force at the time, which prohibited oral and anal sex, was a factor to consider in her reappointment. Said McDonnell at the time, “It [possible sodomy] certainly raises some questions about the qualifications to serve as a judge." McDonnell also said, "There is certain homosexual conduct that is in violation of the law," McDonnell said. "I’m not telling you I would disqualify a judge per se if he said he was gay. I’m talking about their actions." (Incidentally, this was the context for the infamous incident in which Mr. McDonnell was asked whether he had ever violated the statute, and he hilariously responded, “Not that I can recall.”)

* In 2004-2005, McDonnell helped draft the Marshall Newman amendment to the Virginia Constitution, a particularly obnoxious and offensive amendment enshrining discrimination against gay people in Virginia, effectively preventing not only marriage but legal recognition of civil union. The amendment passed in 2006.

* As Attorney General, Mr. McDonnell lost no time issuing an opinion in early 2006, shortly after assuming office, to countermand the executive order by both Governors Warner and Kaine to bar discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Whatever the legal effect of his opinion, McDonnell’s legal reasoning was shoddy enough that it led the Virginia ACLU to conclude, “It is distressing when clouded judgment and poor lawyering by a high government official leads him to conclusions that are clearly at odds with common sense, common decency and the law.”

* In mid 2006, McDonnell discussed with his patron and mentor, Pat Robertson, the pending Marshall-Newman Amendment. Here is what he said: "We think it is critically important to protect the institution of marriage from court attack to enshrine in the Constitution that marriage is between one man and one woman and that other forms of relationships are just not going to be recognized in Virginia."

* In early 2007, after The Christopher Newport University board banned discrimination in matters of admissions and employment based on sexual orientation, Attorney General Bob McDonnell took the time to write the school to tell them, as the publication Inside Higher Ed put it, “it would not be legal for the university (or other public institutions in the state, which have done the same thing) to bar discrimination based on sexual orientation.” Wow! So, according to Bob McDonnell, even if an institution wants to make discrimination illegal, it cannot do so.

* As Attorney General, Bob McDonnell intervened in a private lawsuit among members of the Episcopal Church in a dispute that had gay rights at its core. In a protest over gay priests, dissident members left the church, but filed suit seeking to retain church property. Mr. McDonnell, needless to say, sought to intervene in the case on the side of the anti-gay dissidents, ostensibly in defense of a state statute. But the dispute was a religious and social one, above all else, not a Constitutional one. A real estate attorney told the Washington Post that McDonnell’s intervention in the case “was a little out of the ordinary.” Perhaps more interesting, was this, as the Post reported:
McDonnell's office has another connection to this issue -- his deputy, former state senator William C. Mims (R), who has been a member of another Episcopal church that broke away from the national church over the same issues of how to understand Scripture as it pertains to homosexuality. Mims prompted controversy and much debate in 2005 when he -- as a senator -- proposed a bill that would have explicitly allowed congregants who leave their denominations to keep their land. The measure failed, and opponents said it was an inappropriate insertion of government into church affairs.

That's quite a record.

Does Bob McDonnell and his campaign really believe that a bare assertion, "I won't discriminate," somehow trumps this extensive record suggesting just the opposite? It was one thing when McDonnell was trying to pass off this canard on voters, many of whom would not have a knowledge base to know better, but it is stunning to me that he would feed this same bullshit to a conference call of the Commonwealth's political reporters and expect them to just swallow it.

Just incredible.

Further McDonnell Response: Chicks Dig Me!

Bob McDonnell just put out a response to the disclosure of his incredibly offensive comments about women working outside of the home, basically a news release featuring several of Bob's female supporters talking about what a fair and great guy he is.

Hmmm, that reminds me of something. What was it........

McDonnell Response to WaPo Article Just Doesn't Cut It

Bob McDonnell's statement yesterday in response to the disclosure of his Regent thesis is simply not sufficient.

First, Bob responds he wrote this thesis 20 years ago when he was a student. Like much of his disingenuous campaign so far, this explanation is deceptive. Bob is making out like he was a kid when he engaged in, as he repeatedly calls it, an "academic exercise." That is just not true.

Bob was a 34-year old man preparing to enter public life at the time he wrote this. Is he seriously suggesting he bears no accountability for the ideas expressed in this work?

Second, Bob repeatedly states he was simply engaged in an "academic exercise" with this thesis. Again, this is demonstrably false. The thesis is not simply ruminations of the social upheavals of the day; rather, it is a plan for and a call to action. More damning, however, is the fact that at least through 2005, McDonnell was introducing legislation aimed at implementing the policies set forth in the thesis, according to the WaPo.

Furthermore, this scenario fits in exactly with the mission of Regent. The stated mission of the school is to train and graduate students who will reach positions of influence in society for the specific purpose of implementing public policies that reflect a particular strain of extremely Conservative, Christian Fundamentalism.

So clearly, this was not simply an "academic paper he wrote during the Reagan era and haven't thought about in years." This paper is Bob McDonnell's Manifesto.

Finally, Bob says, “Like everybody, my views on many issues have changed as I have gotten older." Fair enough. But these are pretty serious ideas he expresses in this thesis/Manifest -- a 93-page thesis itself is not something one puts together casually. So a cavalier dismissal of his ideas just doesn't wash.

For one thing, his explanation that he changed his mind is at odds with his record as a legislator, discussed above.

But even looking past that, if he did indeed change his positions as he got older, McDonnell needs to explain how and why. The passage of time alone does not change us -- the salient questions are: What experience did he have since 1989, what books did he read, what did he learn, who were his mentors, that effected such a profound change in his worldview.

Interestingly, McDonnell refused to talk to the AP last night, and only issued the written statement to avoid having to answer questions.

Before this election is over, Bob will have to give a full and fair accounting of who he truly is to Virginia's voters -- if he can. I suspect, however, it is too late for him, even at this early point in the election, to do so without destroying his credibility completely, given the amount of deception and distortion that has gone into trying to paint him as a moderate.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Virginia Democrat College Football Preview - Virginia Tech vs. Alabama - 9/5/2009

Thanks to aznew for setting up as guest blogger here at The Virginia Democrat. Whether you are a Republican or a Democrat, it's great for all residents in the Commonwealth of Virginia to see one of our major college football teams (and the Hokie Guru is never talking about the Wahoos when he refers to football) get up on the national stage. Virginia Tech is one of only three teams (elite company) to win ten games in each of the last five seasons (clearly, the Hokies are becoming a national power). On Saturday, September 5, 2009 at 8 PM EST on ABC Television, your Virginia Tech Hokies take on the Alabama Crimson Tide in the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game. A very important game for both ranked teams; lose this game and you are out of the national championship.

Game day is only six days away :)

Let's get fired up a little:

And if you're not fired up yet, maybe this will do it.

The Hokie Guru makes no bones about it... he's a Hokie homer... plain and simple (so there will only be a sliver of objectivity). This year is the 10-year anniversary of the Hokies run to the first national title game. The Newport News Daily Press did a retrospective on the 1999 team (you can find that here).

Let's preview the matchups... here, the Hokie Guru will address which team has the advangage on offense, defense, special teams, and coaching.


  • Quarterback - Starting at quarterback for the Virginia Tech Hokies will be Tyrod Taylor. Coming out of Hampton, Taylor was a five-star Rivals quarterback. He was one of the most highly recruited quarterbacks in the nation. Taylor is 11-2 as a starter and is fourth all-time among Virginia Tech quarterbacks in rushing yards. This summer, Taylor went to the Manning Passing Academy to improve his game. In short, he is ready to lead this team. For Alabama, first year junior quarterback, Greg McElroy's long wait is over and he finally gets to start. McElroy has thrown 20 passes in three years at Alabama. The Hokie Guru likes those odds against a Bud Foster Virginia Tech defense. ADVANGAGE: VIRGINIA TECH

  • Running back - Virginia Tech was all ready to go this year at running back with one of the biggest studs in the Atlantic Coast Conference in Darren Evans... that is until he tore his ACL. Evans is out for the year. Virginia Tech will likely go with a running back by committe approach, although it appears that Ryan Williams will be the starter. Alabama will use the same running back by committee approach. ADVANTAGE: EVEN

  • Receivers/Tight End - Well, here's the big question... have the Virginia Tech receivers improved? Last season, a Hokies receiver did not catch a touchdown pass until November 29, 2008 (the last game of the season... against hated rival, Virginia.... Jarret Boykin was the receipient of two touchdowns). The Hokies' receivers sound like they are doing well in practice and the scrimmages, but everyone does well there. The Hokies know what they are getting in tight end, Greg Boone. He's first team all-Atlantic Coast Conference. For Alabama, there's no mystery... the Crimson Tide have a big stud in Julio Jones... one of the top receivers in the nation... a nightmare for any cornerback. ADVANTAGE: ALABAMA

  • Offensive Line - Virginia Tech returns four starters on the offensive line. This is arguably the most expereinced offensive line to play for the Hokies. Two Hokies, Sergio Render and Ed Wang, could find themselves on NFL rosters next year (Message to Dan Snyder... make sure you take Sergio Render in the draft). ADVANTAGE: VIRGINIA TECH

  • Offensive Coaching - For three years, The Hokie Guru and his team of admins and contributors have buried this topic to death right here (you should read the blog... it's a great blog... thanks for the opportuniy to plug, aznew lol). No team in the country has done more (e.g. win more) with less on offense than Virginia Tech. Virginia Tech has the worst offensive coordinator in the country. ADVANTAGE: ALABAMA.

For now, the overall offensive advantage goes to Alabama because the Hokie Guru isn't sold on Stiney's improvement and the Hokie Guru's been too fired up to fall flat. Just call it cautious optimism.


  • Secondary - Virginia Tech has third team All-American, Stephen Virgil, as the boundary cornerback. That's the guy that generally covers the opposing team's best receiver. Another Hokie to watch here is the general of the defense (a third-team All-American in some publications), Kam Chancellor. CFN rates the Hokies secondary one point higher than the Crimson Tide secondary. SLIGHT ADVANTAGE: VIRGINIA TECH.

  • Linebackers - Virginia Tech will have a bunch of new starters at the linebacker position this year. The Hokie Guru does have concerns about this. Alabama, on the other hand, is loaded. ADVANTAGE: ALABAMA.

  • Defensive Line: Clearly, Terrence "Mount Cody" Cody is the biggest mofo that the Hokies will face all year (CFN thinks he should already be in the NFL). Running on Alabama is going to be, ahem, a challenge. The same, however, can be said for Virginia Tech. Jason Worilds is going to be a big-time playa. Each team has a killer defensive line. ADVANTAGE: EVEN

  • Defensive Coaching - Bud Foster is one of the nation's best defensive coaches. Many of us Hokies DISAGREE with Jim Weaver's decision not to set up old Bud with a head coach in waiting agreement. For Alabama, defensive coordinator, Kirby Smart, well, isn't too shabby either. ADVANTAGE: EVEN TO LEAN SLIGHT ADVANTAGE ALABAMA


Special Teams

  • No team has excelled more at special teams in the last decade than Virginia Tech (there is so much importance placed on special teams at Virginia Tech, that they are coached by Frank Beamer). Frank Beamer says that this year's team could be his best special teams unit ever!! And here, we're talking about blocked kicks and what happens after the blocked. Here's an example of what can happen (ADVANTAGE: VIRGINIA TECH):

Head Coaching

  • Frank Beamer - The man... the guy who has transformed the Hokies into a national power... active head coach with the third most wins... would have been tempting to fire him after a couple of bad seasons... credit Virginia Tech for not pulling the trigger. He's the same steady guy he's been for several years.

  • Nick Saban - The new Frank Beamer? It appears Alabama wants to keep him in Tuscaloosa for many years to come. An incredible recruiter; the man's had Rivals' top recruiting classes in 2008 and 2009 and might have the best in 2010.


  • Is the team chemistry the best ever in Blacksburg? We know what a few cancers can do to a team.



  • Offensive touchdowns are going to be hard to come by in this game. Everyone knows this. The defenses will reign supreme. This will be one of the most physical games that Virginia Tech plays all year. Coaching adjustments will be made at numerous times throughout this game by both teams. Scores will come on defensive touchdowns (or will be produced as a result of big defensive play and a short field for the offense). Virginia Tech wins 20-17 in overtime... Virginia Tech is due for a big win on the national stage. Will we have another "Miracle in Morgantown?" (hat tip - Fight for Old DC)

GO HOKIES!!!! :)

Bob McDonnell: Rewriting His Record (H/T DPVA and NLS)

Friday, August 28, 2009

And Now For Something Completely Different...

Hokieguru will be guest-blogging here next weekend about the Tech-Alabama game.

I know, this is a little out of character for this blog, and this new subject matter will no doubt disrupt to life rythyms of its tens of readers.

While I am a big Redskins fan, I could care less about the Hokies. But, damn, Hokieguru is passionate about this stuff, and passion is always good, so I say, have at it.

In the meantime, this weekend I will celebrating the ascendency of my middle son, Elijah, to manhood (at least in the eyes of the Jewish community). He has been studying hard to master his Torah, Haftorah and the portions of Shabbat services he will be leading, and I head into the weekend with a mixture of awe at what he done, and a lot of butterfleis that all goes well tomorrow.

Good luck, Hokieguru!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Pat, Bob and Regent University

When Pat Robertson opened Regent Law School in 1978, its purpose was not simply to provide a Christian environment in which students could study law. Or even simply to provide a Christian perspective on the study of law.

Rather, as Christopher Hayes put it in his article in the American Prospect in 2005:
Robertson didn't want to just train journalists, lawyers, and business leaders who happened to be Christian; he wanted to produce a new class of Christian journalists, Christian lawyers, and Christian business leaders -- well-trained, influential, and guided in their professional lives by a sense of Christian mission (as Robertson, of course, defines it). Regent's central insight -- one that's come to dominate Christian higher education -- is that in order to create Christian lawyers or journalists or film editors, the school would need to do more than simply augment its professional education with Bible study and group prayer. Students would be given a road map of what sort of life and career a Christian lawyer or journalist or film editor might have. They would, in the fashionable argot of evangelical pedagogy, be given a “worldview.”

Certainly, there is nothing wrong with religious beliefs informing the worldview of political leaders. In fact, I think that is a good thing generally, with some obvious exceptions.

The school’s slogan on its Website is “Christian leadership to change the world,” and I think, in the abstract, this is fine, too, even though I don’t share Rev. Robertson’s beliefs. Freedom is all about the exchange of ideas.

The problem arises when a politician seeks public office with the specific intent of imposing his personal religious values on the society at large, as part of a larger design to create a more Christian-oriented nation, without fully revealing to the public what he is doing and why.

And therein lies the tale of Bob McDonnell and Pat Robertson.



Make no mistake; Bob McDonnell is an inflexible ideologue. Some of it stems from his religious beliefs – his positions on choice and gay marriage, for example – and some of it stems from his reading of the Constitution and his advocacy of a 19th century version of States’ Rights doctrine. And some of it, such as his mantra that tax cuts are the solution to every economic problem and his embrace of George W. Bush’s economic policies, stem from the Conservative/Republican dogma that has attached itself like a parasite to the socially conservative platforms of the Religious right.

Mr. McDonnell, of course, has played the role of the nice guy moderate to the hilt. Still, his record on choice and gay rights exposed at least one aspect of the dishonest divide between McDonnell’s rhetoric and his career-long record, and thus offered some insight into how he was likely to actually govern on these issues, irrespective of his poll-tested public platitudes.

Similarly, Mr. McDonnell has been seeking to downplay his education at Rev. Robertson’s law school, not to mention his relationship to Rev. Robertson himself. The reason is clear: The record of his experience at Regent Law, and Regent Law’s clearly delineated mission, reveal yet another aspect of the kid of Governor Mr. McDonnell will be, and what that future might mean for the Commonwealth.

There is simply no doubt that Bob McDonnell’s run for governor is exactly the sort of thing Pat Robertson had in mind when he created Regent. Here, for example, is part of the school’s mission statement:
“[P]repare students … to assume leadership positions in the fields of communication, education, divinity, law, government, business and counseling, enabling them to influence the thinking, action and policies of their professions and nations from biblical perspectives.”

Further, the school’s website states it seeks to “create and instill a deep tradition that will forever connect alumni and students to Regent Law School and its mission.”

Regent appears to have met these goals when it comes to Mr. McDonnell. McDonnell told Rev. Robertson in a 2006 interview that the reason he chose to attend Regent Law was that he saw Rev. Robertson speak about the school on the 700 Club. Asked by Robertson how he used what he learned at Regent as Attorney General, McDonnell said:
It gave me a great understanding of the limited role of government and the important [role] of the church … and other institution in society and what happens if government tries to take on those roles[.]”

Really? Then perhaps Mr. McDonnell can explain where the Marshall-Newman Amendment fits in. Asked about it by Rev. Robertson in that very same interview, Mr. McDonnell explains, “From the Garden of Eden to 2006, we believe that marriage is between a man and a woman.” Sure sounds like a matter for the Church, not the government, to me. Why are these issues not separate in Mr. McDonnell’s worldview?

Clearly, when Mr. McDonnell talks about the conflict between government and the church, he sees it as a one-way street. Mr. McDonnell obviously favors imposing church doctrine upon, and limiting the power of, government. No matter how one feels about the issue of gay marriage and civil unions, it is beyond dispute that Bob McDonnell took what he admits is a Christian religious belief (“From the Garden of Eden…”) and transformed it into a public policy (an amendment to the Virginia Constitution) foisted upon all citizens, religious and atheistic alike.

If you still have doubts, consider the words of Jason Eige, a senior assistant to Mr. McDonnell and a 1999 graduate of Regent Law. According to Slate, he offered the following career advice in the school’s alumni newsletter, The Regent Remark: "Your Résumé Is God's Instrument."



How else does the Regent Law mission manifest itself in practice?

Consider the politicization of the Justice Department by the Bush Administration and Regent Law’s role in that. Regent Law grad Monica Goodling, a senior assistant to Alberto Gonzales, was in the middle of the scandal, engineering the dismissal of several U.S. Attorneys that the Bush Administration deemed insufficiently supportive of GOP electoral goals.

Apart from any individual culpability on the part of Goodling, Daliah Lithwick at Slate reported it turned out that Goodling was one of 150 Regent graduates serving in the administration, “a huge number for a 29-year old school.” (See this article from Huffington Post, as well).

One area targeted by this recruitment scheme, according to Lithwick, was in DOJ’s vaunted civil rights division. As Lithwick explains:
Under Ashcroft, career lawyers were systematically fired or forced out and replaced by members of conservative or Christian groups or folks with no civil rights experience. In the five years after 2001, the civil rights division brought no voting cases on behalf of African-Americans. It brought one employment case on behalf of an African-American. Instead, the division took up the "civil rights" abuses of reverse discrimination—claims of voter fraud or discrimination against Christians. (For an extensive review of how the Bush Administration remade the Civil Rights division, see here)

There is nothing wrong with learning and practicing law from a Christian perspective. There is absolutely nothing unethical or wrong about what Regent is doing in terms of seeking to place its graduates in good jobs. And there is nothing wrong with one’s religious or, for that matter, lack of religious, beliefs informing their policy positions.

But as Lithwick puts it with respect to the Justice Department scandal of which Goodling was a part:

No, the real concern here is that Goodling and her ilk somehow began to conflate God's work with [Bush’s] ... The dream of Regent and its counterparts, like Jerry Falwell's Liberty University, is to redress perceived wrongs to Christians, to reclaim the public square, and reassert Christian political authority. And while that may have been a part of the Bush/Rove plan, it was, in the end, only a small part. Their real zeal was for earthly power.



When all Is said and done, however, Goodling was a functionary. There is an added concern when one of Robertson’s soldiers is running for public office.

That concern is levelling with the voters about your record and your intentions.

It is a concern with which Mr. McDonnell is familiar, since he is a serial offender, and this matter is no exception.

Just as Mr. McDonnell has been trying to recast himself as a moderate after a career of advancing Conservative causes, Mr. McDonnell has tried to erase Rev. Robertson from his biography. Should anyone raise an issue about the Rev. Robertson’s role in Mr. McDonnell’s career and what that might mean for Virginia’s future, they are accused of being anti-Christian.

I am neither anti-Christian nor anti-religion. In fact, I am quite religious. And the problem is not Robertson’s specific beliefs, although I obviously do not agree with them. Rather, the problem is that by not being upfront with Virginia voters about their shared vision of specifically injecting their conservative Christian beliefs deeply into the policies and processes of Virginia governance, Mr. McDonnell and Rev. Robertson are perpetrating a fraud on the citizens of the Commonwealth.

One clear manifestation of this is Rev. Robertson’s conspicuous absence from the political scene as a McDonnell supporter.

I don’t know whether Mr. McDonnell and Rev. Robertson have appeared together recently, but I could not find evidence of such an appearance on Google (for whatever that is worth). If they did appear together, and I missed it, it was not a highly publicized appearance.

More telling, perhaps, is the money trail, or. curiously enough, the lack of one.

Take a look at the 2006 interview Rev. Robertson did with Mr. McDonnell on the 700 Club. The Reverend is kvelling at his former student, now the Attorney General of the Commonwealth. And toward the end of the interview, Robertson tries, but cannot fully suppress his Cheshire Cat grin as he asks McDonnell about “other opportunities down the road,” presumably the Gubernatorial election and beyond.

So, you would think that Mr. McDonnell's candidacy would generate some financial support from the Reverend. Certainly, when Mr. McDonnell ran for Attorney General, Rev. Robertson gave him $66K, making him the single largest individual donor to the McDonnell campaign.

So, how much has Rev. Robertson donated to Mr. McDonnell for this race - to be governor? Would you believe only $10K? And that was last year. So far, in 2009, Rev. Robertson has not contributed one red cent to Mr. McDonnell.

In comparison, in the last three Gubernatorial elections, Rev. Robertson donated as follows:

-- $47.5K to Kilgore
-- $60K to Earley
-- $50K to Gilmore

But somehow, the candidate to which he is closest rates $10K? And nothing in the actual year of the election?

I can only speculate, but if I didn’t know better, I’d suspect the Rev. Robertson is intentionally laying low, fearful that his name showing up near the top of the VPAP donation would almost certainly generate news...

And that might generate questions…

About the extent to which Mr. McDonnell has been influenced and believes in Regent's mission...

And that might lead to some difficult answers...

And those answers might make many Virginians who believe in the separation of Church and State very uncomfortable with the thought of Governor McDonnell.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Meet Bob "Dubya" McDonnell: Will we get fooled again?

Bob McDonnell’s love of George W. Bush’s economic policies is not the only thing Bob has in common with our 43rd president, perhaps the worst in our history.

In fact, if Bob McDonnell is elected governor, odds are he will do for Virginia what Dubya did for the United States. So, I guess, if you liked George W. Bush, you will probably love Bob McDonnell.

As for me and all other sentient Virginians, however, it scares the Bejesus out of us.

In 2000, when Bush ran for president, one of his problems was his past record. Oh, his years as a drunk could be excused easily enough by his religious conversion, but his ham-fisted, frat-boy worldview and his lifetime record of business failure at everything he attempted bespoke an uncurious and uncaring mind, a lack of judgment and poor leadership skills. These qualities would come back to haunt us.

Bush may have fancied himself a businessman and entrepreneur, and indeed, he was somewhat successful at creating this image of himself in the media, but the truth of the matter was that he was a serial failure in business. He was able to make millions anyway thanks to his family’s connections – after all, when your Dad is a former head of the CIA and a President of the United States, there are plenty of people vying for the opportunity to bail you out.

Similarly, Bush sought to portray himself as a successful governor of Texas with a reputation for reaching across the aisle and forging bipartisan solutions. The truth, however, was that the governor of Texas is a weak post, and Bush did nothing of consequence in his time in office beyond public relations.

As it turned out, George Bush’s past record was a harbinger for our future, from his failure to pay attention to a memo entitled “Bin Laden determined to Strike in U.S.,” to the sheer incompetence of his response to Hurricane Katrina, to economic policies so steeped in a discredited ideology that they nearly plunged us into another Great Depression. All of this was easily foreseen from Bush’s record. And it is not as if this record was hidden; the mainstream media reported it all, even if they did not embrace it as a theme for their campaign coverage.

The reason is that Bush ran a brilliant campaign in 2000 that showed an uncanny knack for manipulating media coverage to his benefit.

Times were good. After eight years of good management under Bill Clinton, the country was doing well, and it was hard for people to envision how a President could screw it up so royally. Clinton, in his way, made it look relatively easy to be a competent president, even if you disagreed with his policies. So, the Bush campaign asked us, “Who would you rather drink a beer with, me or Gore,” as if that was a rationale criteria for choosing a president, and we never focused on the fact that being President is a really hard job that requires a lot skills – skills Dubya lacked.

There were two reasons for this state of affairs. First, The Bush campaign did an excellent job of keeping the focus during the 2000 campaign on the political process rather than substance. Was Al Gore telling another white lie? Was he changing the color of his clothes? Are the Clintons against him? Was his kiss with Tipper at the convention in poor taste? And on and on.

Second, for a variety of reasons the MSM far preferred writing stories about these process issues rather than do serious and more difficult reporting, reporting that admittedly may have been arguably less appealing to readers generally, but without question more useful to informing voters. (If you have time and want to take a fascinating look at the press’s performance in this election, go check out the incomparable archives, circa 1999-2000, of legendary web site The Daily Howler.)

In 2009 in Virginia, Bob seems to have the very same problem that Dubya had in 2000, nationally. He has a record as a legislator – anti-choice, anti-public education, obstructing efforts to create jobs, anti-worker, anti-Southside, and gay – that were it fully understood and evaluate would be troubling to Virginia’s growing purple population.

That is why Bob is working very hard to obfuscate his record in this election. So far, so good -- for him, at least. The press has not shown an inclination to really probe into Bob’s record and let voters know what that record may say about what kind of governor Bob McDonnell might make.

And like George W. Bush, McDonnell has (so far) successfully sought to keep the campaign's focus firmly on process, not the issues. For example, when Creigh raised the issue of Bob’s record on choice, the MSM covered is mainly as a process story, evaluating it as a campaign tactic, rather than getting to the substance of the charge that Bob's rhetoric was at odds with his record. The MSM didn't even flinch when Bob simply refused to discuss it, because as a matter of process, it was a brilliant strategy. And when McDonnell falsely charges that Creigh promised not to bring up social issues in the campaign, well, yee-ha, we got us another process story!

Faced with a record of hostility toward gay Virginians and a consistent record of supporting discrimination again gay people throughout society, Bob simply says, “I won’t discriminate.” Oh, all right then -- a good tactical move, even if it is totally inconsistent with his entire career.

Creigh made a major speech this past week defining the differences between himself and Bob. The McDonnell campaign falsely alleged it was just another is a series of restarts, when everyone knew that the real campaign has not even begun yet – that will happen on Labor Day. And, of course, the MSM was only too willing to cover the speech as a process story, reporting on, but eschewing any serious discussion of the issues Creigh’s speech raised. Rather, we got a process story about Creigh and NoVA, right out the McDonnell/Bush playbook.

The story is the same on virtually every substantive area. On transportation, Bob proposes a funding plan so absurd it is difficult to think someone as smart as him actually believes it. But, he sure expects us to buy into it. On education, Bob has been singularly uninterested in public education his entire public career, but somehow expects us to believe it will be a priority for him if elected governor. Anyone who has looked at Bob’s record, however, knows this is just so much hooey.

It goes on and on.

And to be fair, it is not just the MSM. Certainly, conservative bloggers, sadly reduced to vehicles for reprinting Bob and the RPV’s inane talking points rather than providing any kind of interesting, thoughtful discussion, have been completely focused on process. And even on the Progressive side of the blogosphere, several very popular bloggers have been focused on criticising Creigh’s campaign strategy, staff shake-ups and other process-related issues.

But here is the cold, hard truth.

Records matter. More than the rhetoric candidates utter in the crucible of an election, records are much better indicators of what a politician may do once they get into office than anything else, particularly campaign rhetoric.

Bob can try to run from his extreme Conservative record and from his clear focus on narrow, ideologically driven responses to critical issues in the Commonwealth. He may even succeed as a candidate.

But the fact is that Bob’s record is a much more accurate indicator of the kind of Governor he will be, and that is why it is important that he be forced to respond to questions raised on social issues; questions raised on his non-existent record on supporting public education; questions raised on his drill, baby, drill certitude on off-shore drilling even though the science is unclear; and questions raised by his clear ideologically-driven record on the economy, for example, his position rejecting federal funds to help the Commonwealth’s less fortunate families who, thanks to this Bush recession have found themselves unemployed and in dire economic straits.

In other words, nothing in Bob's record even remotely suggests that he will follow through on his much of his rhetoric this campaign, which includes exactly the kind of government intervention and aid against which McDonnell has preached his entire life.

One way or another, voters need to see and comprehend Bob’s record, or we could be seeing the Third Bush Term in Virginia for the next four years.

I can only quote, ironically enough, former President Bush’s own words of warning: “Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me twice, and, uh, we won’t get fooled again.”

Thursday, August 20, 2009

No retreat, baby, no surrender

Creigh’s speech tomorrow at GMU will be an opportunity for him to lay out the themes for the 2009 Gubernatorial race. Creigh will be talking about, in a personal way, how his life has forged his values and worldview, and how that will inform the manner in which he governs. And from there, he will draw the stark distinctions between a Virginia led by him and one led by Bob McDonnell.

But in the end, really, for this speech to be effective, it can’t be about Creigh, or about Bob McDonnell. In the end, it has to be about us, and about what kind of Commonwealth we will be living for the next four years and beyond.

I, for one, think it is worth paying attention.

I’m weary of hearing that Virginian Democrats are tired and complacent. Maybe, after a tough primary, Creigh wasn’t your first choice for our candidate and you’re not enthused. But for good or bad, this election is upon us, and it is time, IMHO, for all of us to get our heads in the game.

Here is what Creigh will be talking about tomorrow, and what is at stake for all of us in November:

1. On jobs and the economy, do we want to move Virginia forward in an environment of economic justice and equal opportunity for all, or to we want to return to the failed economics of George Bush – the economic policies that time and again Bob McDonnell has extolled as his model. What did those policies bring us? Home foreclosures, bankruptcies, unemployment and fear. Sure, the rich folks did fine under George Bush, and the wealthy will do fine with Bob McDonnell as Governor. As for the rest of us…

2. On education, what are the records of each of these candidates? Creigh has been a defender of public education his entire career. His grandparents were teachers. What of Bob McDonnell? His record in the General Assembly has been one of taking resources away from public schools. Even now, Bob McDonnell wants to take money away from schools to fund his transportation plan. Does that make any sense whatsoever?

3. Bob McDonnell says social issues don’t matter. As for the real Bob McDonnell, the one who throughout his public career has been hostile to a woman’s right to choose, the one who has sought to defend discrimination against gay people, the one who has opposed stem cell research that could cure diseases like juvenile diabetes, well, as for that Bob McDonnell, like the projected image of the Great and Wonderful Oz, that Bob McDonnell urges us to pay no attention to that man behind the curtain. That man is the real Bob McDonnell, and we need to pay close attention.

The speech will be webcast at

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

McDonnell's Money Deserves Closer Look

Is Bob McDonnell for sale?

Between 2007 and 2009, a Houston, Tex. couple, Bob and Doylene Perry, contributed $55,000 to Mr. McDonnell’s campaign.

Bob Perry, it turns out, was the largest contributor to the oxy-moronically named Swift Boat Veterans for Truth back in the day. This has been extensively reported in the Virginia blogosphere.

If all Mr. and Mrs. Perry were involved in were the spreading of vicious smears against decent, patriotic Americans on behalf of GOP candidates, I wouldn’t bat an eye. Such tactics have become de rigueur in the Republican playbook these days.

Of more concern to me was an alarm raised in March about the Perrys from the blog “Clearly New Mexico,” a project of the non-profit, non-partisan Center for Civic Action based in Albuquerque, about the Perrys donating money to politicians in the Land of Enchantment. Here is what the blog had to say:
New Mexico was one of only five states in the nation with no caps whatsoever. Texas is another. [aznew – as is Virginia].

Perhaps that’s why Bob Perry, the multi-millionaire Houston homebuilder, and his wife Doylene Perry have found New Mexico politics so hospitable. In 2008, Bob wrote campaign checks to the New Mexico Republican Party totaling $240,000. In the 2006 cycle, the Bob and Doylene dropped a total of $361,000 into the state.
In 2002, Perry gave NM Republican gubernatorial candidate John Sanchez a cool $250,000.

So what ever does Perry expect to get in return for all of this generosity? Good government?

Well, no, good government was not the right answer. In explaining, Clearly New Mexico cites this March 28 story from NPR:

Bob and Jane Cull bought the home of their dreams in Texas. It was built by one of the most powerful and politically connected homebuilders in the country (Perry) — and it was defective. Thus began a 13-year odyssey that would teach them some unhappy lessons about money, power and influence…

The Culls’ new home was undergoing “foundation heave.” The clay soil underneath was expanding and contracting like a sponge as it got wet and dried out. The edges of the foundation began lifting, and the wooden frame began to bow under the stress.

… Since 2006, Bob Perry has contributed more than $21 million to political candidates and judges — including the nine Republican justices who make up the Texas Supreme Court.

“They all took money,” [said the research director of Texans for Public Justice]. “Not a single member of that court should have sat and heard a case involving Bob Perry Homes.”

Six years after winning in arbitration, the Culls’ $800,000 award was thrown out. In a 5-4 decision, the Court disallowed arbitration and sent the case back to the courts.

Read the entire tale of how Perry’s political clout, bought and paid for, screwed the Culls here.

Also, read here about how the Perry’s money helped buy a favorable regulatory environment for homebuilders in Texas. According to Texans For Public Justice:

Out of 181 legislators, there are only six who don't take money from the Texas Association of Builders. So when the homebuilders come to Austin to lobby, the most powerful politicians in the state pay their respects.

After a welcome message from the governor, the rallying homebuilders fanned out to the offices of every legislator, bearing small gifts and a message: Save the Texas Residential Construction Commission.

[A]n even bigger problem with the [Texas Residential Construction Commission] is that the agency has no ability to discipline bad or even criminal builders. In Texas, there is no state licensing of builders, and builders of new homes are not required by law to disclose known defects, unlike sellers of existing homes.

Even if a builder is repeatedly negligent and deceptive, there's little the state can do about it. In five years of existence, the Texas Residential Construction Commission has revoked just one builder's registration. Archer says when it comes to protecting buyers of new homes, the Lone Star State is not exactly leading the pack.

"I would say we're dead last," he says. "I don't believe there's any state in the country where the homeowner is up against more obstacles and more impossible tasks in terms of getting relief than they face here in Texas."

So, what is this Texas builder up to in Virginia with his fifty large? Is he just an ideologue willing to spend a lot of money to elect Republicans in states far away from his home, or is this a down payment so that, once the recession lifts and he sees an opportunity in Virginia’s home-building industry, he will have friends in Richmond, much as he did in Austin? In all honesty, who knows? But his history and reputation are troubling.

Do we need or want to run this risk in the Virginia? Why would Bob McDonnell let a Texans millionaire with a history of buying favorable treatment from state regulators and judges come into our beautiful Commonwealth? So that he can rip us off with his political connections and shoddy workmanship?

Look, to tell the truth, I don’t for a minute believe that Bob McDonnell wants that. As deceptive as I think his campaign has been, and despite my profound differences with him on social and other issues, I do not think that he is a dishonest person at heart or quite that evil.

Still, this is an issue that, first, it goes to Mr. McDonnell's judgment, and second, shows that while Mr. McDonnell works hard to pass himself off as a moderate to Virginia’s independent electorate, the far right wing of the Republican Party aren’t paying attention to the smoke Mr. McDonnell is blowing in our direction. They now just how Conservative he really is.

The fact is that McDonnell took Perry’s money, and it is fair to ask why he did so. It is also fair to ask whether, in light of Perry’s history, what favors he believes he can expect down the road from a McDonnell administration.

It remains to be seen whether there is a questionable pattern in Mr. McDonnell’s contributions. I would only note for now that about half of Mr. McDonnell’s total contributions come from outside of Virginia, and over the past two years, 44 different individuals or small businesses have donated more that $20,000 to Mr. McDonnell’s gubernatorial campaign. Most of these donations seem fine, but some come from places like Tarrytown, NY, New York City, and Boca Raton, FL, and I wonder what they want?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

McDonnell's Online Defenders Show Their Contempt For Voters

The reaction of Bob McDonnell and his supporters to questions about Bob McDonnell’s position and record on the right to choose is quite telling. They have tried everything – avoidance, indifference, dissembling, attacking Creigh, -- everything that is except Mr. McDonnell coming clean on the issue. The reason why – that the very conservative Mr. McDonnell is trying to present himself to the electorate as a moderate – is self-evident.

That politics, of course, and it is par for the course.

But a post earlier today at Bearing Drift by JR Hoeft was a particularly odious effort to turn the issue back on Creigh.

Citing an answer Creigh gave to a question during an interview in Hampton recently, Mr. Hoeft wrote:
Creigh Deeds was recently speaking at a church radio talk show in Hampton Roads and had the opportunity to discuss abortion.

His statement on abortion is appalling…claiming that he’s “never been so poor or so desperate” to think about abortion as an option.

Does this mean the only people who should contemplate abortion are the poor and desperate? If that’s the case, should there be a litmus test on income before abortions are performed? What’s the desperation test?

The only thing that is appalling is Mr. Hoeft’s distortion of Creigh’s remarks.

Here is the text of what Creigh said:
Abortion is not an easy thing to talk about. My wife and I have been party to four wonderful pregnancies. We have four children that we love very much and that love us. And it [abortion] is a very difficult thing to think about, but frankly, from my perspective I’ve never been so poor or so desperate, that I would think about abortion.

First, blogger Vivian Paige, who enjoys an impeccable reputation among Progressives and Conservatives alike, was present for the remarks, and she states that Mr. Hoeft took Creigh’s remarks “out of context.”

So far, I’ve been unable to locate the full discussion or a transcript.

But you don’t need that to see what Mr. Hoeft has done. Creigh was clearly discussing his own experience in a serious and honest manner, and in trying to imagine how he and his wife might have personally faced the decision, he considers circumstances under which he would have been so poor or so desperate to consider abortion as an alternative.

Look how he starts: “Abortion is not an easy thing to talk about.” No, it is not. Later, he reiterates that abortion is “a very difficult thing to think about.”

What is particularly sickening about Mr. Hoeft’s actions is that Creigh attempted to discuss a difficult legal, moral and ethical issue like an adult, with sensitivity, introspection and reflection, and rather than treat his comments accordingly, Mr. Hoeft chooses to twist them into a monstrous distortion to launch an unwarranted political attack.

Not only is this offensive, I wonder whether it gives away the McDonnell game plan. Mr. Hoeft is a well-known blogger in conservative circles. His response to a serious discussion of abortion was basically to tell the voters of Virginia “Fuck you. Before we will seriously discuss the legal, moral, ethical and spiritual issues around the right to choose, we will say anything, distort any words and lie to try to turn the tables on Creigh.”

This is exactly the problem. The right to choose is an important and serious civil liberties issue. It is certainly a serious matter on an emotional level for many women who choose to have an abortion rather than see a fetus to term. It deserves serious discussion.

Mr. Hoeft is apparently incapable of this, and so meaningful debate with him on the issue is not possible. If you doubt this, consider the title Mr. Hoeft gave his post on facebook: “Deeds supports abortion as eugenics?” Disgusting.

The really sad part is that this not only shows contempt for the voters of Virginia, pro-choice and pro-life in varying degrees, it also shows contempt for many good people who, on the pro-life side like Bob McDonnell, hold strong and heartfelt opinions on this difficult issue. I don’t agree with Mr. McDonnell on this issue, but like him I am a religious person, and I respect his views and the spiritual basis for them. Unfortunately, Mr. McDonnell’s supporters, apparently, do not.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Are You Ready For The Country?

Two weeks ago, a vigorous debate erupted in the Progressive blogosphere in Virginia over Creigh Deeds’ rural strategy. The debate was never resolved, but petered out as the campaign and bloggers involved in it moved on to other issues.

The debate began Aug. 2, when Miles Grant, in a post entitled “Deeds Doubles Down on Rural Roots,” slammed the “Deeds Country” tour, appearing to argue that Creigh needed to spend all his time nailing down his Democratic base in Virginia’s urban, suburban and exurban areas, and not mess around for 10 days in Southside and Southwest Virginia. In Miles’ view, Creigh needed to spend all his time trying to get a dispirited base more excited.

There was polling to support this view. More specifically, PPP polls and SUSA polls, showing Bob McDonnell with a double-digit lead over Creigh, described an enthusiasm gap between Republicans and Democrats that was evident in each polls composition of likely votes, both skewed heavily toward the GOP. (Even as I write this, a new Washington Post poll ominously suggests Creigh has a great deal of work to do to nail down his base). Further, as the news of the disruption of town halls across the nation rode the crest of the cable news wave, Conservatives took heart that if they couldn’t win elections, at least they could temporarily shout down the opposition. Woohoo!

Meanwhile, Creigh’s campaign seemed off the rails. It wasn’t clear who was in charge, the candidate was mostly invisible, bloggers were being shunted aside and there was no clear message. And now that the post-primary unity love-fest had a chance to wane, some Progressive bloggers began to give voice to the fact that Creigh was significantly more moderate than many of them; they were anti-McDonnell, for sure, and would obviously vote for Creigh, but enthusiasm among this particular group of activists for Creigh was not high.

It was into this environment that the Deeds Country video and tour rode. Not only did the tactic fail to address any of the problems described, above, in the context of all these issues it seemed like a political non sequitur. The homespun video added to the concern. Was Deeds Country a sincere and effective entreaty to rural voters, or simply laughable campaign kitsch, poorly-timed and off the mark that confirmed the Deeds camp was in disarray?

To be sure, this was an instance where the mocking commentary of NotLarrySabato captured the zeitgeist perfectly, at least among NoVA bloggers, with the classic tweet, "Can someone please tell @CreighDeeds he is running for Governor of an urban/suburban state- not Sheriff of Mayberry."

Other bloggers, especially those from the rural parts of the state, took issue with the criticism, arguing that the tour was necessary and a success. Their message was clear: not everything revolves around Northern Virginia.

As for me, I really wasn’t sure what to think.

At that point, Lowell at Blue Virginia weighed in with an analysis that looked at the strategy of going after the rural vote, as opposed to the specific tactic of Deeds Country, as Miles had done. Lowell noted that both Kaine and Webb won their races by focusing on the “Urban Crescent,” that swath of the state beginning in the exurbs of Loudoun County and curving down the 95 corridor to Richmond, as opposed to Southside and Southwest Virginia.

Lowell also noted that Mark Warner used a rural-centric strategy effectively in 2001, so it was a viable path to a Democratic victory.

In the end, however, Lowell concluded:
Perhaps Mark Warner is sui generis in Virginia politics, and perhaps it had to do with money (Warner outspent Earley more than 2:1 in the general election), but it's nonetheless impressive for a guy from Alexandria City.

This year, we've got a candidate from western/rural Virginia, which means he should have a natural competitive advantage in that part of Virginia. If not, he's probably toast anyway. If so, then what Deeds has got to do is focus his efforts heavily on the "urban crescent" strategy that worked for Jim Webb, Tim Kaine, and to an extent Mark Warner (we haven't even discussed Barack Obama, who won huge in the "urban crescent"). In short, that means a Deeds campaign focus on: a) African Americans; b) NOVA; and c) Hampton Roads (not necessarily in that order). If Deeds can hold his own in rural Virginia and rack up large margins in the "urban crescent," he wins big.

Well, with the two most widely read websites in the Virginia blogosphere leveling such pointed critiques at the Deeds’ campaign, it wasn’t long before the story found its way into the mainstream media. On Aug. 6, the Washington Post wrote about it. The debate over tactics and strategy even drew the following comment from Creigh himself: "There are some bloggers who think that because I'm from rural Virginia, I can take for granted some bloc of Virginians. Does that mean that Northern Virginia is any less important? Absolutely not. That's where the election will be won or lost."

In the meantime, I interviewed Creigh as he kicked off Deeds Country (the timing was sort of coincidental). I asked him whether he thought it would be a base election or a fight for independents, and if the latter, where those voters would come from. He answered:
I don’t know if I think about it that way. You’ve got to drive your base out, but it’s going to be decided by independents. If we drive out the Democratic base, we’re still going to need a few votes.


A lot of them are in rural Virginia. A lot of them are the voters we want to reach out too [with the Deeds Country tour]. But there are independent voters all over the place.

Data suggests that, as Creigh said, a lot of those independent voters are, in fact, located in the rural areas -- areas that are generally GOP strong holds. Based on a review of historical voting numbers, I would describe these voters as not beholden to any particular political ideology – they tend to be “live-and-let-live” types of folks – but voters who are looking for a rural, traditional, religiously focused cultural sensibility with which they are comfortable. See Steve Jarding and Mudcat Saunders “Foxes in the Henhouse”.

These historical voting patterns suggest that the Democratic candidate that can speak to these voters has the reasonable potential to win roughly three times as many extra votes in the Commonwealth’s rural Republican stronghold districts (compared to the average performance of Democrats in those areas) as he does in the Democratic strongholds.

In other words, Creigh has more to gain from minimizing traditional Democratic weakness in rural areas than he does from maximizing traditional Democratic strength in urban and suburban ones.

To show why, I looked at the past five, competitive, non-federal elections for statewide office in 2001 and 2005 (I excluded the 2001 AG election as a total outlier). Democrats, of course, won three of those elections (2001 Gov., 2001 LG, 2005 Gov.) and lost two (2005 LG, 2005 AG), with one loss (2005 AG) effectively being a tie.

To evaluate the potential effect of Democratic strength in the Democratic stronghold districts roughly comprising the “Urban Crescent” -- the 3rd, 8th and 11th – I looked at the margin of victory in each race, and then calculated that number as a percentage of total votes cast in each race(TVC).
- 2001 Gov. – Warner: + 118,000 (26 % of TVC)
- 2001 Lt. Gov. – Kaine: + 112,000 (25 % of TVC)
- 2005 Gov. – Kaine: +162,000 (33 % of TVC)
- 2005 Lt. Gov – Byrne: + 136,000 (27 % of TVC)
- 2005 AG – Deeds: +123,000 (25 % of TVC)

The average of all five races was 27.2%, with a standard deviation of 3.4, suggesting that Creigh’s margin of victory in the 3rd, 8th and 11th will arguably range from 23.9% to 30.5%.

I followed the same procedure to evaluate the potential of Democratic strength in the top Republican strongholds, looking at Democratic margins of losses in the 5th, 6th, 7th and 9th
For the same elections:
- 2001 Gov. – Warner: -11,000 (1.5% of TVC)
- 2001 Lt. Gov. – Kaine: -31,000 (4.5% of TVC)
- 2005 Gov. – Kaine: -49,000 (6.5 % of TVC)
- 2005 Lt. Gov – Byrne: -105,000 (14% of TVC)
- 2005 AG – Deeds: -67,000 (8.9 % of TVC)

The average loss was 7.08% of TVC, with a standard deviation of 4.7%, suggesting a range of Democratic losses here as ranging from 2.4% to 11.8% of TVC.

It is clear from these numbers that Democrats obviously have much greater potential to pick up or, obviously, lose more votes in the GOP Districts, where there is relatively wide fluctuation in Democratic candidate performance, than in the Democratic districts, where the data suggests Democrats consistently perform near the apogee of what is reasonably possible.

To quantify this, take a look at how Creigh might fare in 2009, using 2005 turnout numbers, if he followed a Rural-centric or “Urban Crescent-centric” strategy, and applying the potential ranges of margins of victory and of loss, respectively, in both Democratic and Republican strong holds:

The Urban Crescent Strategy
Margin of Victory in Dem Districts (assuming best performance w/in Std Dev): 155,000
Margin of loss in GOP Districts (assuming average performance): 55,000
Differential: Creigh + 100,000
Benefit to Creigh vs. Average: 24,000

The Rural strategy
Margin of victory in Dem Districts (assuming average performance): 138,000
Margin of loss in GOP Districts (assuming best performance w/in Std Dev): 18,200
Differential: Creigh + 119,800
Benefit to Creigh vs. Average: 43,800

Thus, roughly the potential to pick up 20,000 more votes.

This analysis, however, addresses only the quantitative issue, i.e., whether this strategy makes sense given the potential reward. It does not address the issue of whether, under the particular circumstances of this campaign, it is a good strategy to follow. That requires consideration of at least four, undoubtedly more, significant qualitative factors, i.e., considerations that evaluate the possibility of Creigh reaching the greatest beneficial potential.

First is the issue of the effect of Creigh’s base in rural areas. Lowell assumes that because Creigh is from a rural area, by virtue of geography alone Creigh will already get sufficient votes in rural Virginia, more than is typical for a Democrat. “This year, we've got a candidate from western/rural Virginia, which means he should have a natural competitive advantage in that part of Virginia,” Lowell wrote. “If not, he's probably toast anyway.”

This argument, however, clearly suggests Creigh should make an aggressive pitch for rural votes, not sit back. Creigh may have competitive advantages in rural areas, as Lowell states, but those advantages will come only into play if he actually competes for the votes. To me, that is one of the major lessons of the Warner campaign. If you want the votes, ask for them.

Which brings me to the second qualitative factor, namely, whether Creigh is a Democrat who can connect with these rural voters, or whether Mark Warner is, as Lowell put it, sui generis?

Again, Warner is the exception that proves the rule. Warner might very well be sui generis in terms of an urban politician, but here is where Creigh’s rural roots come into play. Warner, of course, required Mudcat Saunders to help him connect with rural voters; Creigh is the real deal. If he can do it, then no Democrat can. But like Warner, because he is a Democrat he will have to work for it. He can’t take it for granted just because he from a rural area.

Third, does Creigh risk anything by not focusing solely on the Urban Crescent? The answer is no. The numbers show a relatively tight range of potential returns in that area, as the data suggests that even a poor performance by Creigh in the Dem strong holds would leave him with a margin of 24%, or 9,000 votes fewer that he could expect on average. Thus, a strong performance in rural areas still leaves him ahead of the game.

Fourth is the great unknown of turnout, specifically turnout by the Obama voter. Hundreds of thousands of voters registered last year; were they strictly Obama voters, or have they become engaged in Virginia's political process to the extent that the state races have captured their attention? That is unknown right now.

One last matter: asserting that going after the rural vote is a worthwhile strategy is not a judgment on whether Deeds Country was an effective tactic in pursuit of this strategy. This piece is already too long for me to consider that.

But I will say, for any rural strategy to be effective, it needs to connect on some visceral level with all Democrats around the state,, rural, urban and suburban at the same time. You can’t say one thing in Danville and another in Falls Church; you can be an “aw shucks yokel” in bath, and a smart, sophisticated lawyer in Fairfax. But this can be achieved by intelligently discussing the issues that are common to all Democrats – economic and social justice, a clean environment, education available to all, and fairness in the allocation of burdens among all people for raising resources to improve our Commonwealth, from the perspective of how Creigh’s rural and traditional roots informs his thinking on these issues.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

McDonnell wants it both ways in flag flap

The flap over the Confederate flag displayed in, but not a part of, a Bob McDonnell campaign booth at a gun show captures the disingenuous, two-faced campaign that Mr. McDonnell has been successfully running up to now.

First, a recap of the action:

On Aug. 10, NLS published a picture that appeared to show the flag being displayed at a McDonnell booth at a gun show in Richmond. Turns out, however, that NLS had it wrong; the flag belonged to the booth next to McDonnell’s, which sold, among other things, Confederate-themed t-shirts.

Popular Conservative blog Bearing Drift, took Ben Tribbet to task for publishing the story, under the headline, “What We’ve Come To Expect From Virginia’s Biggest Democratic Bloggers.” Bearing Drift’s argument, from someone named Jason Kenney, in essence was that the NLS story was completely false, and NLS's publishing of the story is evidence of Ben's moral unfitness to blog.

I say, before jumping to conclusions, look at the photograph, for goodness sakes.

It is beyond reasonable dispute that the flag is clearly positioned on the border between the two booths.

Was that just kismet?

Well, Mr. Kenney can believe what he wishes about stage photographs, but that seemed like too innocent an explanation for a cynic like me. Indeed, an anonymous comment posted on NLS from someone alleging to be a Conservative and an eyewitness addresses this issue in what seems to me to be a convincing manner (but it is anonymous, so assign whatever credibility you wish to it):
The flag is not owned by the Sportsman for McDonnell group, it is owned by the confederate group to their left. However, I also had the same reaction when I saw the flag right next to the Sportsman for McDonnell table and approached those working it to inquire. They were not concerned, and told me they had requested the confederate guys place the flag there so it would be a part of both booths. That's probably why Tucker Martin is in the Washington Post saying he spoke to their volunteers instead of letting them speak directly to the reporters. One of the McDonnell volunteers even had a flag t-shirt on with the "Heritage Not Hate" slogan on it.

So not the McDonnell flag, but also not the non-story my conservative blog friends are trying to make it out to be, probably in an attempt to keep reporters from talking to these McDonnell rednecks who were working the booth.

Here is what strikes me about this whole sordid story, if this post is true. It is yet another example of Mr. McDonnell trying to have it both ways in this campaign. On the one hand, at the gun show, his campaign perhaps wanted to associate itself with the Confederate flag, a powerful symbol. Then, busted by a photograph in which the symbolism of the flag might be misunderstood in a negative light, the McDonnell simply denies ... reality. (For the record, I don’t care about the flag being in or near the McDonnell booth. Bob McDonnell is a lot of things, but he is no racist, and symbols like the Confederate flag need to be viewed in context).

Hmmm? Where have I seen this double-dealing behavior before? Oh right, from Bob McDonnell. This is a candidate, after all, who favors criminalizing abortion in virtually all circumstances, and who has introduced literally dozens of bills in the General Assembly seeking to limit a woman’s right to choose, but who claims to be a moderate searching for common ground on the abortion question. This is a candidate with a long history of discrimination and hostility against gay people who tells us, if we elect him governor, he won’t discriminate. This is a candidate with a long record of blocking economic development proposals put forth by our last two governors who now says he is all about jobs.

If Mr. Kenney wants to castigate NLS, Lowell Feld, Creigh Deeds and every other Democrat in the state for sins real or imagined in connection with this flag, he ought to at least have the intellectual decency to observe that Mr. McDonnell has not come totally clean on this matter either.

I'm not holding my breath. Unfortunately for Mr. McDonnell, this sort of lack of candor has been par for the course in this campaign, and his supporters accept it without question.

It's what he's done the last 17 years

This gets it exactly right.

It's not what Bob McDonnell has said the last 17 days, it's what he has done the last 17 years.

Go Creigh!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Why the Abortion Issue is Freaking Out McDonnell and His Minions

Why are Bob McDonnell and Virginia conservatives afraid to discuss social issues like choice and discrimination against gay people?

If you doubt that they are afraid, look no further than the ferocity of the response on the righty blogs to Creigh Deeds' raising of the issue. Their response was not to defend Mr. McDonnell’s positions, but rather to seek to squelch the debate before it could even begin by arguing, among other things, and quite ridiculously in my opinion, that Creigh agreed not to raise these issues in the campaign. Here is VA Blogger at Too Conservative:
In just two short weeks, Creigh Deeds finds himself pitted against himself from two weeks ago: During the Virginia Bar Association debate, both candidates agreed that social issues took a back seat this election[.]

Uh, that was more an observation by the candidates of how the campaign might unfold. It certainly was no a promise not to raise an issue that “pits” Creigh against himself. Well, nevermind.

Several conservative blogs have also offered their opinion that raising social issues is a poor strategy that will not work, to which I can only thank them for their genuine concern. VA Blogger, again:
The rub here is that abortion is a divisive issue, which staunch advocates on both sides. But while Deeds can certainly play up a contrast with McDonnell on this issue—something he hasn’t been able to do on more substantive issues by saying “me too!”—that doesn’t mean people will care about it when voting for Governor.

But VA Blogger makes it clear that it is not a good issue for McDonnell to discuss, adding:
McDonnell would do himself well to avoid this desperate wedge issue and keep leading on jobs and the economy, on transportation, on energy, on quality of life issues, and on the issues that matter to and affect everyone.

I could only shake my head at that one. Apparently, the right to control one’s own health care is not a quality of life issue for VA Blogger. And what does the phrase “issues that matter to and affect everyone” mean? Is there such an issue?

At Bearing Drift, Shaun Kenney, in additiion to explaining once again why the tactic would not work, even more hilariously resorted to the unusual tactic of complimenting Lowell Feld in an effort, perhaps, to distract Progressives away from this argument:
Convincing women that McDonnell is somehow out of the mainstream on abortion is like one horse bucking a national freight train. Gallup polls are showing Americans to be majority pro-life for the first time in the history of modern polling.
Deeds will perceptibly fail at this effort as well. … Deeds can do one of three things at this point … 3. Get the Democratic blogosphere re-engaged. Let’s face it — where is Lowell Feld in this campaign? Blue Virginia (and he has to know this on some level) is a terrible platform for Lowell.

Signifcantly, Shaun's assertion about the recent Gallup poll might be factually correct, but it is nonetheless misleading, and neatly demonstrates why this issue concerns McDonnell and his minions so. The portion of the poll Shaun cites relates to a question asking people what they considered themselves to be, and by one point, 47-46, people said they were “pro-life.”

More revealing in that very same poll, however, is that only 18% of respondents held the same position as Mr. McDonnell on the issue of choice, namely, that abortion should be illegal in all circumstances.

In contrast, 77% of the respondents in the poll held the pro-choice positions, i.e., that abortion should be legal in all circumstances (21%), or legal under only certain circumstances (57%). This is Creigh’s position.

But there is another, more fundamental fear that Mr. McDonnell has of social issues, and that is that these issues might reveal the real Bob McDonnell to the voters. That real Bob McDonnell is an extremist who would seek to impose, with the force of law, his social and religious moral beliefs on all of us.

When Bob McDonnell says all abortions should be criminalized, there is no space for tolerance of other views. When Bob McDonnell would deny someone a judgeship because he believes she is gay, or writes legal opinions justifying discrimination against gay people, he was using his power – power granted to him by the citizens of Virginia – to discriminate.

Mr. McDonnell knows that Virginians will not support this kind of nonsense, so he worked hard in this campaign –successfully, so far, I might add -- to falsely paint himself as a moderate.

There are several factors that have allowed him to get away with this:
1. Mr. McDonnell is a likable candidate with a good sense of humor. He is not a snarling, angry wingnut like Catherine Crabill, a smarmy political operative like Eric Cantor, a party apparatchik like Jeff Frederick or Pat Mullins, or a black helicopter spotter like Ken Cuccinelli. So, if Mr. McDonnell comes across as a reasonable man, it pays to look at the people connected to the RPV that are defining Conservatism in the Commonwealth. The bar is not merely set low; it’s buried a few feet into the ground.

2. Mr. McDonnell has espoused a platform in almost every area that relies on meaningless bromides and proposals with which it is hard to disagree, but they are strictly small bore solutions, and they are clearly designed more to avoid criticism than to address problems. In short, his platform doesn’t leave much to seriously critique, because it is almost utterly void of meaningful content or interesting ideas that would really make much of a difference. My personal favorite is the plan to appoint Bill Bolling "Chief Job Creation Offcier," but his platform is chock-full of expanding this, appointing that, ensuring the other thing, blah, blah blah. It's like the guy who explains how to become rich by advising you to "make a lot of money." Awful hard to argue with that advice, meaningless as it is.

3. Other parts of Mr. McDonnell’s platform are built on falsehoods that are difficult to disprove. Mr. McDonnell, for example, claims offshore drilling has been established as environmentally safe, citing a think tank in support of his ideas. Of course, it is a think tank funded by oil interests. Mr. McDonnell argues that revenues from offshore drilling would be sufficient to fund the Commonwealth’s transportation needs. But the fact is that, according to non-partisan studies, the environmental impact of offshore drilling, at best, requires more study. As for the revenues, those are simply uncertain until further testing can be completed, but unlikely to provide the riches Mr. McDonnell promises.

4. The mainstream media tend to focus on the strategic and tactical aspects of campaigns, not their substance, especially when those strategies and tactics are working. Thus, coverage of Mr. McDonnell’s efforts to keep who he really is under wraps actually draws favorable coverage, because he is effective at it, rather than provide the exposure his strategy, based as it is on misrepresentations and distortions, deserves. This isn't a criticism. I think the MSM views such critiques (with the exception of the occasional “fact check” feature) as partisan in nature and therefore a violation of their responsibility to remain "objective."

Some problems Mr. McDonnell faces from this line of attack are fairly clear. Most significantly, McDonnell's lead in the polls rests almost completely of Democrats being dispirited so far in this campaign. Pressing a hot button social issue could wake up the Democratic base, which could spell trouble for McDonnell.

The problem Mr. McDonnell faces from all this is not so much that Choice will become an outcome determinative issue in this election, however. I think the economy will continue to hold that title. But, at the end of the day, objectively evaluating the various economic solutions offered by each candidate are difficult, if not impossible, tasks for most, if not all, voters. There is too much speculation involved. Much depends on one's ideology.

But for many voters, the decision often comes down to the gut determination of, “Who do you trust?”

The social issues dispute creates at least two problems in this regard for Mr. McDonnell. First, "Moderate Bob," who is funny and wants to find areas of agreement with Democrats, who promises not to discriminate despite a record of supporting discrimination, is a much more likeable political persona than "Real Bob." Sure, there is a cadre of true believers who genuinely like "Real Bob" and his extremist views, but for most voters, the image of a self-righteous fundamentalist without tolerance for others' beliefs, a puppet whose strings are being pulled by his mentor, Pat Robertson, is not an appealing picture. If more voters come to see Mr. McDonnell in this way, his message on economic, environmental and transportation issues will surely suffer.

Second, given that Mr. McDonnell’s campaign is based on creating an entirely false image of the GOP candidate. I would suspect there is a very real fear in the McDonnell camp that if one element of his façade crumbles in public, there is a risk of the domino effect taking hold and voters ceasing to trust Mr. McDonnell on other issues, as well.

As discussed above, proving Bob McDonnell is painting a fake picture of himself when it comes to the economy, and the related issues of jobs, transportation, the environment and education, is a relatively complex undertaking. His prior record is sparse, and inconclusive. Economic bromides, by their nature, tend to involve speculations that are simply not provable one way or another. And, his ideas, because they lack substance, are tough to critique.

But proving Mr. McDonnell is pulling the wool over the eyes of the Commonwealth’s voters when it comes to social issues is more easily demonctrated, because there Mr. McDonnell has a record.

And if voters come to see how Bob McDonnell is fooling them about how extreme he is on social issues, well, folks might just ask, “What else is he trying to fool us about?”

That, friends, is not a question Bob McDonnell wants to hear.

Friday, August 7, 2009

RPV's Mullins is either a liar or a complete idiot (or possibly both)

I got a strange e-mail today from Pat Mullens at the RPV. Entitled, "RPV Video: Creigh Deeds Refuses Questions At Own Campaign Event"

According to the e-mail:

Republican Party of Virginia Chairman Pat Mullins today released a new Internet video from Creigh Deeds' campaign stop at a restaurant in Tazewell County at which the Democratic candidate for governor refused to take standard questions from an audience of hand-picked supporters holding Deeds yard signs and wearing campaign stickers.  This further highlights reasons Deeds has refused to agree to a full debate slate with Republican Bob McDonnell.

"The guy is clearly unnerved by being asked about the issues of the day," said Chairman Mullins.  "If you can't take questions from a hand-picked audience at your own campaign event, how in the world are you going to be the leader of the Commonwealth?"

A link to the video was attached.

Well, this seemed strange. First, it didn't sound like Creigh. Perhaps, I thought, some rude teabagger had found their was to a Creigh event and the childish behavior we have been seeing at Congressional Townhalls had somehow leaked into the Virginia gubernatorial campaign.

Well, here's what it was. McDonnell's tracker was videotaping Creigh's speech, and Creigh is clearly being senstitive to the privacy rights of the folks who came out to hear him speak. Creigh offers to take questions, but gesturing to the tracker, acknoledges that the presence of a GOP camera might have a chilling effect on his audiences' willingness to do so.

Now, I have no problem with the tracker. That's politics, these days. But for Pat Mullins to somehow turn this into Creigh refusing questions is either a lie, or he s a complete idiot. (The layover of a cutsie bluegrass-sounding sounding song about being a tracker does not rescue this moronic effort as simply tongue-in-cheek harmlessness, though in that sataric spirit I rewrote the lyrics for your enjoyment -- see below).

I can't believe my Republican friends in Virginia cannot do better than this when it comes to party leadership.

The video is below. Judge for yourself. (Note - the song is kind of obnoxious. I've found that it is more tolerable if you replace the lyrics with these that I wrote):

Oh, Pat Mullins is a liar,
Yes, he has to be a liar
Mullins must be a liar
Or an idiot, oh.

He'll write you, e-mail, ask you for your vote,
But look out boys, he's a dishonest dolt.

Oh, Pat Mullins is a liar,
Yes, he has to be a liar
Mullins must be a liar
Or an idiot, oh.