Taking defeat from jaws of victory

Published 12:39 pm Saturday, May 25, 2013

No matter how you look at it, this fall’s gubernatorial election should have been a slam-dunk for republicans, especially given the commonwealth’s economic progress over the last few years. Governor Bob McDonnell’s administration, like him or not, has done a brilliant job at reviving the state’s struggling economy. McDonnell ran on the campaign slogan “Bob’s for jobs,” and has lived up to it since the moment he was elected. Well over one thousand economic development announcements and nearly seventy thousand jobs later, the state unemployment rate is hovering just above five percent. In economic terms we are nearing full employment, which essentially means that everyone who wants to work has a job.

Much of the credit belongs to Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling who began his second term by being named Virginia’s chief jobs creation officer, becoming the first lieutenant governor in state history to serve in the governor’s cabinet. Bolling has made the most of his part-time position by working full-time to make sure goals for economic development were reached. At one point he appeared a lock to become the republican nominee for governor, having patiently waited his turn for a shot at the top job after he declined to run for the post four years ago to pave the way for McDonnell.

The republican’s path to retaining the executive mansion was made even easier when democrats chose Terry McAuliffe as their standard-bearer. McAuliffe, who was soundly beaten by Creigh Deeds in the 2009 democratic primary and has never held public office, has a long history as his party’s top fundraiser and bragging about job creation for Virginia that never materializes. In addition to promising he would create hundreds of jobs with his electric car venture, which he located in Mississippi instead of Virginia and hasn’t even come close to living up to his hype, he has touted his Franklin Pellets project for three years while generating zero results. In fact, when referring to the recently closed Franklin Mill and the 1000 jobs that were lost as a result of the closure, in a September 2011 interview bragged that he was, “down in Franklin, Virginia, creating and saving these jobs, but I’m shipping all the wood pellets over to Europe.” Needless to say, none of that was even remotely true.

All the pieces were in place for what should have been an easy republican victory this fall: a weak opponent with a dubious track record and a potential candidate with a history of success. But the republican party, who only had to stay out of it’s own way in order to cruise to an election-night victory party, did the one thing it has been consistently good at doing in recent years by backing a candidate so far to the right that it risked losing its moderate supporters.

And, according to the most recent Quinnipiac poll of over 1,200 registered voters, lose them they have.

Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who just a week ago formally accepted the Republican Party’s nomination as its candidate for governor, is already trailing McAuliffe in the polls by five percent. If republicans are crying over their beers on November 5th they will only have themselves to blame.