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originally posted at Blue Commonwealth, which should be your first stop for Virginia politics

Robert Holsworth of Virginia Commonwealth University is an important media voice on things political in Virginia. He is, after Larry Sabato, perhaps the most frequently quoted academic figure on Virginia politics.  He also writes a column with his observations.   Given all the discussion of the meaning, or lack thereof, of the straw poll at Gerry Connolly's St. Paddy's day event, I thought it might be worthwhile to draw people's attention to the piece. You can of course skip the rest of what I offer and go directly to St. Paddy’s Day in Fairfax: Endorsements and Straw Polls.  Or you can go below the fold for some extracts and a bit of commentary from me, someone officially neutral in the race, with a working relationship with all 3 Democratic gubernatorial candidates, and friends committed to each of the three candidates. In any case, at least read Holsworth.

Holsworth begins

In the morning, it was Brian Moran.

Picking up more local endorsements, obtaining support from the majority of Democrats who sit on the FairfaxCounty Board of Supervisors and the Fairfax School Board. It’s a list that grows every day, including some of the most prominent names in NOVA, Hampton Roads and Richmond.

But the nighttime was the right time for Terry McAuliffe.

Thus he gives due credit to Brian Moran for his ability to continue to gain endorsements from the traditional Democratic political class,but also acknowledges how Terry McAuliffe was able to turn out support for the straw poll.  The column is an examination of the meaning of both.  As he notes

It seems to me that yesterday reflected the strengths and perhaps the challenges that face both the Moran and the McAuliffe campaigns.

   He recognizes the achievement of Brian Moran in gaining the overwhelming advantage in endorsements that he has, but then notes that endorsements can only take you so far.   He then acknowledges McAuliffe's organizational skills, "in this instance arranging for donors to pay for 400 tickets for his supporters."  Now I think this is worth noting -   TMac has been accused by many supporters of Moran of having purchased the votes he obtained. Holsworth seems to be throwing in a wrinkle, implying at least that the campaign did not directly pay for the tickets,but that supporters committed funds for that very purpose.   I will explore that in a moment, after I note the caution that Holsworth offers about McAuliffe's efforts, even as he writes

McAuliffe and his campaign exult and excel in the "theatre of politics," more so than any Democrat since Doug Wilder.

 He raises the question of whether this will translate into votes in the June Primary.

I will return to Holsworth's observations.   But let's return to the implication noted above.  Close observers of the campaign have probably noted that Holsworth has written a number of pieces remarking on how organized the McAuliffe campaign is.   Some of what he has written seems to indicate that he has been given a fair amount of access by the campaign, and that what he has seen has impressed him.  Certainly the way he phrases the purchase of the tickets for the Connolly event would seem to support such a conjecture.  If so, that demonstrates a real sophistication by the McAuliffe folks - the political press are the refs of the contest, and they are doing a very good job of working one of the key refs.  And as I have noted elsewhere, to large degree people who are casual participants in politics do not closely follow the bloviations of bloggers, much as I might wish were the case at least when I post  :-)  !!   They are inclined to pay some attention to what major media outlets say, and many of those who write about Virginia politics will pay attention to the remarks of Larry Sabato and Bob Holsworth.   Thus getting what the McAuliffe campaign seems to think is a positive reaction from Holsworth on the straw poll (I was sent a link to the piece from which I am quoting by someone working for Terry after that person read some of my comments on other threads about the events of yesterday) is something that has to please them.

Holsworth frames the results of last night in as clear a fashion as one can imagine:  

In order to win the straw poll, McAuliffe had to bring out particpants who might not usually attend Connolly’s bash.

In order to win the primary, McAuliffe may have to bring out participants who may not usually vote in a low-turnout election dominated by party insiders and activists.

Holsworth acknowledges what McAuliffe had to do in order to win the straw poll, to overcome the huge advantage Brian Moran had among local elected officials -  it is an overwhelming advantage.  And that does leave the question with which Holsworth ends:

The question, I think, is whether he can repeat the feat in a statewide primary.

That is a valid question.   At this point the answer is not clear. What is clear is that McAuliffe's win yesterday has unsettled some Moran supporters to the point that what they have posted sounds almost desperate.  Others have offered analysis that is not so histrionic, rightly pointing out that the ability to turn ou several hundred people for a low participation straw poll is not the same as being able to turn out tens of thousands of additional voters to change a balance that should otherwise favor Brian Moran.

Should favor, but no guarantees.  And the fact the McAuliffe demonstrated something on this small scale, and there is no doubt he will have the resources to attempt to do it on a much larger scale, is something that SHOULD be of concern to the Moran side.  If the size of the electorate participating in the primary greatly expands, will they be able to hold down how much of the additional vote goes to McAuliffe? Do they have sufficient boots on the ground to offset what will certainly be an advantage in advertising by McAuliffe? Might McAuliffe's heavy advertising turn out to be a negative, something off which Moran's folks can play, with limited advertising and word of mouth, claiming that McAuliffe is trying to buy the nomination? They surely will try.

One thing to bear in mind. There are some political insiders who are committing to Terry McAuliffe.   Brian Moran resigned from the position of House of Delegates Democratic Caucus Chair, where to his credit he has done yeoman work recruiting candidates for Delegate and cutting substantially what had been an overwhleming Republican advantage.   He was replaced by Delegate Ken Plum, from Fairfax County.

Delegate Plum has endorsed Terry McAuliffe.

I would say the gubernatorial nomination is far from settled.   Stay tuned -  methinks that, in word made famous by Al Jolson:

You ain't seen nothing yet


Originally posted to teacherken on Wed Mar 18, 2009 at 07:23 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  it is an interesting time to be a VA Dem - (9+ / 0-)

    hopefully the passion of the partisans of the various candidates will not be so heated as to prevent a coming together after the primary.  This diary is an attempt to provide some unbiased analysis.

    Do with it what you will.


    do we still have a Republic and a Constitution if our elected officials will not stand up for them on our behalf?

    by teacherken on Wed Mar 18, 2009 at 07:24:43 PM PDT

  •  Good article, tea (0+ / 0-)

    I didn't know you were a Virginian, too!

    •  Live in Arlington, teach in Greenbelt MD (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Moo Means Hello

      have been involved at least somewhat in VA politics since moving to Arlington in late 1982.  First campaign was helping Frank O'Leary get elected Arlington County Treasurer in 1983.  Ages ago.

      Spent last year in a political leadership program through the Sorensen Institute at UVa.  One classmate from their is political director for Brian Moran.  Another, Pat Edmonson, is running for Lt. Gov.  Of the three new Dem congressmen from VA, on a first name basis with two, Glenn Nye and Tom Perriello.  

      I was on editorial staff of Raising Kaine, and am on editorial staff of Blue Commonwealth.

      So yes, involved a bit in Virginia.

      do we still have a Republic and a Constitution if our elected officials will not stand up for them on our behalf?

      by teacherken on Wed Mar 18, 2009 at 07:46:46 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Isn't that special. (0+ / 0-)

    Beltway whore TMac dipped into his bank account and bought himself a nice straw poll.
    Call it what it is, Ken.
    Like Rena did here.

    In the battle of meaningless political terms, my assault weapon beats your partial birth abortion. - Eddie Garcia aka kestrel9000

    by kestrel9000 on Wed Mar 18, 2009 at 07:44:19 PM PDT

    •  obviously some in press disagree (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I know how you feel.  I know how Rena feels.  She is passionate, and I respect that.

      Regardless of what you think, the reality is that on this event TMac is winning the preliminary messaging in the media.  You may not like that.  You do not know whether or not I like that. I am reporting the facts.  

      Holsworth is correct to question whether that is translatable to the larger scale of the primary.  If it is to any degree, then McAuliffe could well win the primary.  And I would argue that if the electorate expands substantially, a lot of the additional voters will be relatively low information, who will judge the campaign on things very different than will traditional democratic activists.

      But also note -  Brian's replacement as House Democratic Caucus Chair has not endorsed Brian, but rather has endorsed Terry.  That carries  a certain amount of significance.  

      My job is not to bash anyone.  I like Brian and I like Creigh.  I have had my differences with some of Terry's past actions.  But as things now stand, he has a real chance of being the nominee.  In which case I and hopefully every Democrat will have to rally behind him, just as we would behind Brian or Creigh.  And the nastiness on all sides needs to stop now, or not only will the primary victor have little chance in the general against McDonnell, the impact on independents could cost us heavily in things like House of Delegates races.

      Remember -  I AM NEUTRAL.   I live in Virginia, I care deeply that a Democrat win the governship, and I hope that we will also pick up the other two statewide races and the House of Delegates.  And anytime I see rhetoric or action that damages the prospects for the party, I am going to be strongly opposed to that rhetoric or that action.  

      In the meantime, I tow the line of no candidate.  I offer my expertise in education to all three.


      do we still have a Republic and a Constitution if our elected officials will not stand up for them on our behalf?

      by teacherken on Wed Mar 18, 2009 at 07:54:29 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Ken, if I'm a Republican (0+ / 0-)

        (which I'm not) I'm on my knees praying to the God of Dobson and Robertson that McAuliffe win that primary.


        Big money, lobbyists, Beltway connections comes word from CNN that McAuliffe is airing ads on gospel/urban radio stations comparing his candidacy to Obama's..when he was Hillary Clinton's campaign manager.

        The Republicans will have a field day with Terry McAuliffe, and his victory in the primary would not only almost certainly ensure a McDonnell victory, but offers the strong potential for redemonization of Democrats in the Commonwealth and trhe reversal of many of the gains we made there in the last two cycles.

        And with redistricting on the table in 2012, I'm not prepared to take that chance, especially not to feed the ego of a political hack who oversaw the DNC in a period of huge losses that, by rights, should have been gains.

        In the battle of meaningless political terms, my assault weapon beats your partial birth abortion. - Eddie Garcia aka kestrel9000

        by kestrel9000 on Thu Mar 19, 2009 at 01:38:36 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  if you feel that way (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          your job is to persuade the potential primary voters of VA of the fact.  I will tell you that going purely negative (a) will not help to make that case; (b) will hurt Brian's candidacy; and (c) will damage the party as a whole.

          You view it as Terry's ego.  Others view it as Brian's ego that he think he is entitled to the nomination without having to persuade the voters.   Holsworth notes that the endorsement, which he (and I) applaud Brian for getting, are by themselves insufficient.

          There are a number of signicant players in the Virginia Democratic party who disagree with you on  Terry's candidacy. I am not just talking about his blogger support.  I am talking about people who have not yet made up their minds, but have told me they view Terry as credible, if for no other reason than how well-organized- and professional - his campaign is, and thus they recognize the impact it could have. And while he will never have the number of endorsements Brian will given Biran's longer period of public service, he is getting some of some import, he is getting financial support from some major long-time VA Democratic donors, and he is connecting with some people when he appears before them.

          Will he able to continue doing that, perhaps thereby lessoning his negatives? I don't think we can yet judge that.  Will he implode? I think that unlikely?  Will Bria's campaign go almost totally negative, thereby truly damaging the party?  We don'tknow that yet either, although the signs of that possibility are disturbing.

          TMac quite possibly will be the Democratic nominee.  Do we want in our primary battle to go so far that if he is we create a self-fulfillling prophecy that he can't win, when it is Democrats doing all the damage?  Are some of Brian's supporters now sounding, ironically considering the person they hate, like Clinton's PUMAs?  

          Some people far more knowledgeable than you or I are about Virginia politics strongly disagree with your estimate of the meaning of a McAuliffe win for the general election campaign.  Some point at problems in Brian's background, and also note that MCDonnell has to be careful how he - or people on his behalf - would go after any Dem given some of the baggage he carries.

          For now I note that, whether you or other TMac haters like it, Terry won the media coverage of the straw poll.   By itself that is not dispositive.  But it does increase his possibilities in the primary in June.

          I am neutral.  I am objectively analyzing what is in the public domain.  You may be unhappy with it, but your unhappiness does not change the facts of how so far the media seems to be reacting to the straw poll.

          do we still have a Republic and a Constitution if our elected officials will not stand up for them on our behalf?

          by teacherken on Thu Mar 19, 2009 at 04:09:09 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Interesting. (0+ / 0-)

    I think it's important to note, however - my issue isn't necessarily that T-Mac had to buy last night's straw poll.  It was that he unabashedly called the purchase "grassroots" in his twitter.

    I also think it's worth exploring whether or not these voters who wouldn't usually come out in a primary include people who a) don't really know why they're in a particular place; and b) don't actually live in Virginia.

    I met my share who fit both descriptions at the event last night.

    •  Well think about it. (0+ / 0-)

      Get people to turn out that normally do not turn out... can't get any more grassroots than that...

      Takin it to the streets....Doobie Brothers

      by totallynext on Wed Mar 18, 2009 at 08:04:10 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  noted - but I also note Lowell's experience (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      of meeting people who had been very turned off by the leaking of the emails Josh had sent to the Moran campaign, especially given to whom they were linked.

      I fully expect you to be passionate.  I have not criticized what you have written, unlike some stuff offered by other bloggers supporting Brian whom I think have gone well over the line.  I have criticized both Brian and Terry for specific statements -  I have not as yet found it necessary to do so with Creigh.

      The purpose of this post was not to argue with you.  Rather it was to provide a wider perspective than those offered by partisans on either side.  It was to note, as I did in my comment on your diary, that insofar as part of the context is controlling the meme of how the press plays events, TMac's campaign seems to have won the day, not necessarily to any large scale, but to the point that whether or not he purchased a victory, it is not that on which the media is focusing.  

      And I might note that the louder some Moran supporters scream about what is a perfectly normal tactic for this kind of event (where people have to pay or have their way paid in order to participate in the poll), in a sense the more disservice they do to Brian.  Methinks all they needed to accomplish the goal of deflating any bubble for Terry is to respond not with histrionics,but merely the wry observation that it is nice when one can afford to spend a lot of money on straw polls.

      Of course, sending out of ominous sounding fundraising pieces does not help the cause.  But that is a separate issue.

      Again -  I think the most important thing of note in the past few days is Ken Plum's endorsement of Terry.  Now, was he an active Clinton supporter and thus has an ongoing relation with Terry?  if that is NOT part of the media coverage, then might not it be why Brian's successor as House Caucus chair is supporting his opponent?

      Keep advocating for your guy.  I respect that.  Please respect that my purpose is something quite diffrerent.  I advocate on behalf of no candidate in a race in which I remain neutral.  I advocate on behalf on an issue, and most of all on behalf of keeping the primary contest sufficiently within bounds so that the party can come together after the beginning of June.


      do we still have a Republic and a Constitution if our elected officials will not stand up for them on our behalf?

      by teacherken on Wed Mar 18, 2009 at 08:04:11 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  one more thing - thanks for the rec - (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      one does not have to fully agree with a diary to believe that it is worthy of recognition and discussion.

      I do not expect this to get all that much traffic, and probably very few recommendations.  One reason I appreciate yours, from a strong Moran supporter.

      I did not write it to garner recommendations, although I would certainly welcome them. This site is hostile to McAuliffe.  But he has a realistic chance of being the Dem nominee,even though right now I would still give something of an edge to Brian.  And as apparently one of the few remaining bloggers in Virginia who has not taken sides in this particular race, I thought I should try to ensure that people not in the midst get a picture not solely from the perspective of advocates for (you) or against (Mike Stark) particular candidates.


      do we still have a Republic and a Constitution if our elected officials will not stand up for them on our behalf?

      by teacherken on Wed Mar 18, 2009 at 08:08:51 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Here's one thing making me uncomfortable (3+ / 0-)

      with what you're saying, Rena:

      What you're saying is exactly, exactly what I was hearing from NH Clinton supporters after Obama turned out a large crowd of vocal supporters for the 100 Club immediately before the primary last year. The fact that Obama had gotten such a roaring, enthusiastic reception, they argued, was because the Obama campaign had bought a ton of tickets and given them to young people from out of state who were just there to cheer for him, etc etc etc.

      Now, you might like to hear that since we remember how the NH primary worked out. ;-)

      But I have trouble crediting it more in the one case than in the other -- which is to say, in both cases there's something to it. Of course there is. But to the extent that these things are about organization, and that any campaign is going to claim that their ruthlessly organized support is up from the grassroots...well, forgive me for saying "meh."

      All that said, in a race that's getting so heated and occasionally overheated, I've been appreciating that you're fiercely committed to your candidate without just making it about demonizing the opponent. I recognize that McAuliffe is a big juicy target, but I think it's important to remember there's a decent chance he's the Democratic nominee in a couple months. And you're one of the people I see making the case for Moran instead of just against McAuliffe, and I personally appreciate that a lot.

      •  I want to thank you for several things (2+ / 0-)

        first and foremost for recognizing that Rena, while passionate on behalf of Moran, has refrained from simply attacking another candidate.  I consider Rena a dear friend, even when we disagree.

        And especially this  

        But to the extent that these things are about organization, and that any campaign is going to claim that their ruthlessly organized support is up from the grassroots...well, forgive me for saying "meh."

        One reason I did not go, beside a more interesting commitment (from which I had to bail because of illness) is that there is something that has always bothered me about doing a straw poll at an event where one has to pay to get in.  I'm never quite sure what conclusions one should draw.  Why should it make all that much of a difference who pays for the ticket, when a ticket is the price of being able to cast a vote?  

        Anyhow, also thanks for reading.


        do we still have a Republic and a Constitution if our elected officials will not stand up for them on our behalf?

        by teacherken on Wed Mar 18, 2009 at 08:42:29 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

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