Sunday, March 30, 2014
The McAuliffe Administration, three months in.
McAuliffe saved us from a Cuccinelli administration. For which we should all be eternally grateful.
When Terry McAuliffe first ran for the Democratic nomination for governor, in 2009, I started off agnostic. There were three candidates: Creigh Deeds (my state senator), Terry McAuliffe, and Brian Moran. I was inclined to support Creigh, as I had gotten to know him and to appreciate his depth of knowledge about Virginia policy and issues, and the way that the General Assembly works (since he's served in both houses). He ran a pretty good campaign for Attorney General in 2005, losing by a very narrow margin (shades of even narrower margins to come, as Virginia demographics change. Though we've certainly had close votes in the past--Tom Michie, who later held the same seat that Creigh holds in the Virginia Senate, became a delegate to the Virignia House in 1971, winning by one vote). However, I was open to supporting whomever I thought would make the best candidate. I met Terry a couple of times and was impressed that he was a good listener. However, at the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner in Richmond in early 2009, I was put off by his over-the-top campaign tactics, and in the end, I supported Creigh. We all know how that went--Creigh is a lovely person, and a great state legislator, but he ran an awful campaign, in a year when the tea party was surging forward in their backlash against Obama. They were energized by their candidates, and our folks were not, by ours. In 2009 and 2010 we lost seats--statewide, in Congress, and locally--to the tea party.
In 2010, Terry met with local party leaders around the state to get some input on why Democrats did not support his candidacy for governor. Again, I ended up being impressed that he listened to people, and implemented their suggestions when he ran again in 2013. I was an early supporter of Terry in 2013, and I did have some explaning to do to people about my support of Terry to face off against Cuccinelli. One of the things that I really do admire about Terry is that he's not afraid to be forceful with his opinions. And against someone like Cuccinelli, I thought, we need a very forceful person, as the Cooch is certainly not shy about saying what he thinks will resonate with his base (although he is quite good at dissembling when he thinks it will help him with moderates).
But anyway. My point is that Cuccinelli is a fighter, and Terry is too. And fight he did. He ran a terrific campaign and won, saving us from a Cuccinelli administration. For which we should all be eternally grateful, whatever else he does or doesn't do. (As an aside: Cuccinelli seems to have the most pathetic post-political career ever. Maybe serving as dogcatcher would be more pathetic than running a scam on poor people who own gus, but...).
Some Democrats have criticized a couple of Terry's political appointments, and his support of someone to become chair of the state party who has expressed opposition to marriage equality. However, though we can always find points of difference with those of our own party (and so we should), the important thing is that he is trying to do the right thing: from outlawing discrimination that Virginia has previously seemed content to tolerate, to expanding Medicaid to reach those who fall in the coverage gap (mainly, working low-income adults).
So, to finally get around to asking the question: what does Terry's 44% approval rating mean? Despite the blocking of one of his signature issues (one which, one can argue, he has a mandate for, given that it was a main plank of his platform and he won the darn election, for gosh sakes (though to be fair, most people don't understand what it means, and only us political nerds are really jumping up and down about it)) he only has a 29% disapproval rate, and he has 57% of the state feeling optimistic about his term. According to Quinnipiac, "More respondents rated McAuliffe as honest and trustworthy, a strong leader and concerned about their needs than those who did not."
It's rather a shame that a Virginia governor has to jump right into Virginia's short legislative season (it was a "long" session this year--but long in Virginia means 60 days instead of 45). It might make a lot more sense to have session later in the year, so that the Governor and his/her staff have time to build alliances, develop strategies, and build their case. Since a governor has only one term in Virginia, it doesn't allow much time to get the hang of things before jumping right into trying to achieve an agenda. Terry has, in the three months since he was sworn in, managed to impress more Virginians than has the combative House of Delegates. I'd say that's pretty darn good.