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, June 21, 2009

House Leadership

In regards to my previous post, I think we need to begin our search for our next leader of the House of Delegates. Many speculate that this cycle will be Speaker Howell's last, and that he will retire after the 2011 session.
Right now the names as potential replacements are Kirk Cox and Morgan Griffith, the two other current members of leadership. While I know of no particular reason neither of them should not serve in this position; I hope the GOP will look for and choose someone who has all the necessary characteristics.

While there is no question Vance Wilkins has his problems; it is very difficult to challenge his effectiveness. Under his watch the GOP House caucus grew greatly in size (in no small help by redistricting). The other key was the unified caucus he brought to bear that has been somewhat shaky under Speaker Howell's tenture (2004 sales tax among others). In order to be successful, we need someone who can plat a vision and hold everyone together to accomplish their goals.

We need someone else in Vance's vein, someone with a wide knowledge of the state's politics as well as someone who has a job and position that allows them to devote much more time to recruiting and rallying the troops. This has been one diffidult thing for Speaker Howell; as he has a one man law practice that requires a large amount of his time.

At this point I do not have any names to suggest; I just hope we stop the automatic assent strategy employed in the past. That is not always the best way to get the best people in the best positions.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Speaker Howell's Optimism

For those of you out there not on Speaker Howell's email list, here is the latest release...

Dear Fellow Virginian,
After last week's primary elections, we have finalized the best possible slate of Republican House of Delegates candidates to join our outstanding statewide ticket - McDonnell, Bolling, and Cuccinelli - for the November election. We're now less than 5 months away from Election Day and the Dominion Leadership Trust is working hard as the political campaign committee supporting our efforts to expand our majority in the House of Delegates. Growing our majority in the House of Delegates is more important than ever as we work together to stop Virginia's tax-and-spend Democrats. This year, our majority successfully defended Virginia's small businesses from more Democrat-backed regulation and taxes, protecting the backbone of our state's economy. Imagine what we can do when we pair an expanded majority with Republican Bob McDonnell in the Governor's mansion. As Speaker of the House of Delegates, I need you as a member of our team, the Dominion Leadership Trust. We'll be sending you updates on how you can join our efforts to not only keep, but expand our majority in November. Thank you for your time.
Speaker Bill Howell
Virginia House of Delegates

I have to give it to Speaker Howell, he is an optimistic guy. We have seen 3 consecutive cycles of net GOP losses in the HOD as well as numerous special elections. Apparently we aren't going to simply hold the House of Delegates, we are going to win a net increase in seats. Also, maybe he should refer to his group of folks as the tax/fee/borrow-and-spend Republicans.

While I have very little confidence in this actually happening, it is something people should be focusing on. With the current GOP tally at 53 (55 if you count the 2 GOP leaning independents), combined with a high potential of further seat losses this cycle; there is a real possibility of a democratic takeover. I doubt we will see a 4-6 seat pickup in the 2009 elections; but if Deeds wins the governor's race we could see several appointments like the Preston Bryant one from 2005 that results in a democratic takeover through special elections. Due to the GOP's past track record in special elections, I would give the dems the automatic edge.

I bring this up b/c losing all three branches of government would be devastating to both the GOP and the greater Commonwealth. While the HOD has not done everything as I would have wished over the past few years, I cannot imagine what things would be like were the state government a party rule of the dems like the federal level.

This is what makes it so important that everyone in the House of Delegates run strong races and raise as much money as possible. If not, they may find themselves in a perilous position in January 2010. In addition, we need new blood to emerge as potential leadership in the House for the future. I will discuss that more in a subsequent post.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

My Thoughts on the Deeds Victory

Now that Creigh Deeds has unofficially won the democratic nomination for governor (by a pretty impressive margin), I have some thoughts on the state of the race.
First off, two of my best political friends have opposite outlooks; one thinks Deeds is a shew-in, while the other thinks McDonnell now has the race in the bag (both of these friends are obviously Republicans).

As you can see from my past post, I felt Terry McAuliffe was the GOP's worst nightmare in this cycle. Since he has not secured the nomination, we can all probably agree that his fundraising ability will not be nearly as pronounced in this race in Virginia. This takes the money wave off the table and makes it more likely that McDonnell will be able to be competitive or even outspend his opponent.
This coupled with Deeds more rural appeal gives McDonnell a much better chance of performing better in NOVA and other suburban communities than he would have against McAuliffe or Moran. This should prove very important in holding the House of Delegates, since the GOP candidates like Dave Albo, Tom Rust and Tim Hugo will not have to run as far ahead as the ticket. In addition, almost all hopeful GOP targets for pickups in the House are also in those same suburban communities. Speaker Howell is probably the happiest person in Virginia tonight.

Also, I do not think the candidate choice of Jody Wagner really changes the math in the LG's race. The candidates there will likely fare much like the top of the ticket, with Bolling potentially running 1-3 points ahead of McDonnell due to more name ID than his opponent.
In the AG's race, much the same situation exists; with Cuccinelli likely leading the GOP ticket in raw votes. Again, if McDonnell wins or comes close; Cuccinelli is the next Attorney General.

Now the the gubernatorial race. In the next public poll of the race, I expect McDonnell to lead by a 8-10 point margin; much like 2005. Most likely this lead will hold until Labor Day when voters begin to take a more in-depth look at the state of the race. Unfortunately, I am afraid this may result in the GOP being too overconfident early. One of things that hurt the Kilgore and Allen campaigns was overconfidence early; which resulted in a tougher time when polls started to sag.
Also, we will again find out this year if the voters of the Commonwealth continue the trend of awarding the governor's mansion to the party opposite the White House. While I think its probably a conscience, there is a possibility of some sort of correlation.

Advantages for McDonnell in Deeds getting the nomination is on the suburban community front as well as economic issues. Bob will perform better against Deeds in NOVA, Richmond metro and Hampton Roads than he would have against McAuliffe. This should provide an environment where the GOP does not get destroyed in these areas, leaving them a chance for victory.
The other help should be in the "Bob's for Jobs" theme. McDonnell being an attorney most of his career would have a much tougher time convincing the general public that he can be a "business governor" against businessman McAuliffe. Against another attorney in Deeds, this issue will be much easier for him to score points on.
A third, more intangible issue at play is the historical factor. McDonnell defeated Deeds in 2005 despite the top of his ticket being soundly defeated. While it is mostly a mindset, the cold hard reality is that Bob McDonnell has already defeated Creigh Deeds in a statewide election. That can also serve as an advantage.

Now for the disadvantages. The obvious one is the assumed moderate stance of Creigh Deeds. In fact, I dare say that is the main reason democrats selected him as their nominee. To quote a friend "They voted with their heads, not their hearts. No one who voted for Barack Obama would choose Creigh Deeds over Terry McAuliffe or Brian Moran on issues". This may have some minor problems as dems may not be as apt to work hard for a moderate, but I don't see this being a huge issue. As a corollary, this presents a problem for GOP strategy as the traditional attacks regarding gun rights, death penalty and gay marriage will be much tougher to levy against a man who has voted the same as the GOP during his General Assembly tenure.

A second disadvantage is that the recent electoral strategy gets changed; as Bob McDonnell will not deliver blowout numbers in the Shenandoah Valley, Southwest and Southside like he would against McAuliffe or Moran. It is unclear how this will play out in the era of Red State vs Blue State politics that are very evident in the Commonwealth. This favors the dems since they still seem to have a better GOTV operation in light of the success of 2008 as well as the general momentum.

The third disadvantage is the grudge match factor. Deeds, more than any other candidate; can truly convince his supporters that everyone needs to go the polls. Someone who loses a race by ~300 votes out of several million will have a very good case to make under this arena. This coupled with the great ability of Obama's GOTV organization getting out minorities and young voters could prove to repeat history if this same phenomenon occurs again.

Currently, I still do not know who I think will win in November. Before I can make a better guess; I want to see if McDonnell sticks with his theme as well as see what Deeds will do as he switches into general election mode.