Elephant Ears

This blog is dedicated to the political happenings in the Valley and Southwest Virginia. As the the name implies, this blog will have posts based on what is heard by this elephant's (GOPer's) ears. It is also a great treat to get while at the county fair or a carnival.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Democrats are Pro-Crime?

You would think so listening to some GOPs and their "accomplishments" in the past decade or so.

Another major problem plaguing our party today is the lack of real wedge issues to run on. Historically the Republicans only win the governor's mansion when they run on a specific issue(s) that resonates with the public and is a wedge issue. You saw this with parole abolition from George Allen and car tax abolition from Jim Gilmore.
More recently, the GOP has tried to run on the strength's of their anti-crime stances. They use accomplishments and initiatives like tougher sentences for meth dealers and DUI offenders. While these are noble causes, and are no doubt favorable to the electorate; they do not create a wedge issue to run on. Does anyone really think there are democrats who favor meth dealers or DUI offenders? Of course not.

Where this has greatly been a problem is that the last 4 gubernatorial candidates have been Attorney Generals. Obviously, the major accomplishments on being AG are going to be similar issues; and therefore that is what the candidates have tried to run on. Since the AG has an intrinsic advantage winning the nomination, this has created quite a problem.

I have been told that the McDonnell campaign will not use the same angle that past campaigns have on these issues, and I am glad to hear that. If he does not, I fear Bob will face the same fate as the last 2 AG's who ran for governor.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Terry McAuliffe: GOP Slayer?

In light of Brian Moran's decision to resign his House seat, I would like to cover my (limited) knowledge of Terry McAuliffe and how I see the 2009 governor's race shaping up.
I had the opportunity to attend a town hall type of meeting for McAuliffe at UVA's Darden School of Business several weeks ago. It was billed as a true town hall style meeting, and not meant to be a cheerleading rally; so I thought I would see what he is all about...

Terry McAuliffe is the real deal.

In addition to his ability to fundraise (he is expected to raise $75 million in his bid for governor), I think he has a lot of ideas that will resonate with the general public. His main strengths are being an entrepreneur and having started 27 businesses. I see him taking the same route as Mark Warner and billing himself as the "friend of business". This will spell disaster for Republicans up and down the ballot if he wins the democratic nomination.

What will compound this problem is that McDonnell is an attorney and has no business experience (to my knowledge anyway). I will get into this issue further in a future post, but I think attorney gubernatorial candidates are going to continue to struggle in Virginia over the next few cycles.

If McAuliffe is able to raise the expected level of funds, that will spill over into the downticket and House races, as money will be poured into those races in expectation of a democratic takeover. They will also benefit from a superior turnout/grassroots operation driven by the fund advantage (much like what was seen in the Presidential race this past year).

Kilgore lost by 5 points and almost resulted in the GOP losing the LG and AG's races. A 7-10 point loss will ensure those races are lost in 2009. In addition, that size margin of victory would also equate to a blowout in many GOP held House districts; who will also have a very difficult time running but so far ahead of the ticket.

There is still hope for the GOP. I think a race against Moran or Deeds is winnable (although far from being assured), so the GOP can hope for that to occur. The other way to win is roll out a very ambitious reform message with specific problem solving initiatives. A plan to fix transportation would have to be the centerpiece of that message. Otherwise, I think the GOP is in a very perilous position.

Of course, we could just rest on our laurels on the hope that Virginia always votes for a governor of the opposite party that wins the White House.

Monday, December 08, 2008

The Money War

As a finance person, I probably have a bigger concern for money in politics than other people do. That being said, I think everyone can agree that money is very influential in winning elections.

This is my single biggest concern going into the 2009 elections.

In 2001 the GOP had the sitting President and VP, Governor, LG, AG, 7 members of Congress (in the majority, many with committee chairmanships) and both Senators (also in the majority, with a high ranking John Warner), a House of Delegates majority and the same in the State Senate. This allowed the GOP to have a massive fundraising advantage throughout the period, allowing further victories in the Assembly and Congress (redistricting didn't hurt either).

The only counter the democrats had was running a candidate for governor that is worth several hundred million dollars. This is what helped him to out raise Mark Earley and win the election.

I do not think a Republican has ever won the governor's mansion while being outspent; but I cannot find data on that from the 1970s. Currently, I do not know how the GOP will be able to muster the funds to outspend the democratic candidate (unless Bob McDonnell is also worth $300 million and didn't tell anyone).

Think about this: President Bush raised $3 million in one night for Jerry Kilgore at Dwight Schar's house in 2005. Just think how much worse that race would have turned out had a President Kerry done a $3 million fundraiser for Kaine instead? That's not even counting the massive fundraisers done by Presidential Candidate George Allen, Armed Services Chairman John Warner, and others for the downballot candidates and the House candidates.

I fully expect a full-court press from Kaine & Co. in 2009 much like Gilmore's New Majority PAC that cranked fundraising in the 1999 midterm elections and retook the House. They will use the Obama numbers to convince the business community that they have the trends to take seats and majority. I would also expect the DNC/DGA to have an advantage due to having Obama as well.

To add insult to injury, the economic situation and the stock market will undoubtedly make it tougher to raise funds; which makes star powered fundraisers even more valuable.

There is one thing we can do to stem some of this: Make everyone raise harder. In the past, many of our candidates in safe seats have failed to raise many funds; as they do not need them. Others hoard cash for future races and/or other ambitions. If we are to have any chance at all in 2009; everyone must do their part to raise as much as possible and be willing to part with it to help others.

If the safe seat GOPs want to be in the majority in January 2010; they had better squeeze out every dollar they can find to raise in 2009.

Back in Business

On almost the one year anniversary of my "sabbatical" from blogging, I have returned!
I hope everyone will enjoy the blog again, even though I realize blogs have probably fallen from the prominence they once were here in the Commonwealth.
I must tell you folks, I am "restarting" the blog to (hopefully) advance a return to prominence of the Republican Party. While there are many issues at work in the national party, I believe the best way for us to recover is to do so here in Virginia, and then use that strategy nationwide.

I must also tell you the blog will not be quite like it was in the past. First off, I do not expect to post every day; but my goal is to have a post every week. I will also be less quick to respond to questions/comments on the blog. I want this to be a discourse, not just me agreeing/disagreeing with the commenter. I will try to give others an opportunity to chime in before I respond.
The third (and most important) difference is that this will no longer be a mouthpiece/cheerleader for campaigns or the party. I have always tried to be optimistic with my blog, both with coverage of candidates and with my outlook. I usually took the "best case scenario" or "hopefully we will win" mindset. I will now be very open with my opinions and not sugarcoat them. As a corollary to this, I will also not post information on campaign events other than if it pertains to something I want to talk about (i.e. please do not email me and ask that I put up a post promoting an event, b/c I probably will not do so). I believe that one of the primary reasons blogs have lost their "swagger" is that too many people viewed them as extensions of campaigns, which therefore meant the unbiased viewpoint was lost.

My next post will showcase the change in direction I see for this blog. I hope to complete it by Wednesday morning. I invite everyone back to see where we go from here.