Our View: Drinks and deals

Posted: September 19, 2013

Last week, as you well may have heard, Virginia’s gubernatorial candidates met individually with members of the Northern Virginia Technology Council’s bipartisan political arm, Tech PAC, in pursuit of the influential group’s endorsement. Both men performed predictably.

In other words, Republican Ken Cuccinelli was pretty much all business, a decidedly wise approach given the folks interviewing him. As one Tech PAC interrogator said, the sitting attorney general was “precise” and “thoughtful” — and very much up to speed on issues concerning NVTC.

On the other hand, Democrat Terry McAuliffe, so noted another participant in the exercise, was “his normal, flamboyant self.” That is, the former Clinton fundraiser spoke in glittering generalities, assumed a cavalier attitude toward the whole process, and pretty much just winged it, as is his wont. At one point, pressed to explain how he would accomplish his goals as governor, Mr. McAuliffe, touting his Irish-Catholic heritage, said he’d take folks out for drinks and then take it from there, doing whatever was necessary to make things happen, get things done, cut a deal.

So unimpressed was the NVTC and TechPAC — one member used a common barnyard epithet to describe Mr. McAuliffe’s attitude and approach — that they immediately gave their endorsement to Mr. Cuccinelli.

As a side note, state Democrats — Sens. Janet Howell, Dick Saslaw, and Barbara Favola foremost among them — reacted to this decision in high dudgeon, even to the point of telling the NVTC that the doors of the Democratic caucus would be “closed” to the group’s initiatives and ideas if it did not reverse the endorsement. It’s been reported as well that Republican Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, outmaneuvered by Mr. Cuccinelli for the nomination, also dialed up the NVTC to plead for Mr. McAuliffe, thus reinforcing his status as Virginia’s most diminished politico (and that’s saying a lot, given Gov. McDonnell’s legal woes).

Despite the pressure, the flinty NVTC held its ground, and stuck by its endorsement.

Will this episode be remembered as a turning point in what has been a thoroughly lamentable campaign? Too early to tell, of course, but it may be just the break — a blunder by Mr. McAuliffe, and one totally in character — that Mr. Cuccinelli needs to establish a little traction in this race. Much depends on the extent to which the news of the endorsement filters down to the rest of the commonwealth.

Viewed from the Northern Valley, the NVTC eye-opener underscores a critical point: Mr. McAuliffe knows not the state he seeks to lead. This is not Illinois, where barroom deal-making — “The Chicago Way” — is SOP. Nor is this New York where, save for the occasional Giuliani, Spitzers and Wieners comprise the regular political diet.

Rather, this is Virginia, which zealously guards its reputation, regularly cited and lauded, as one of the nation’s best-managed, best-run states. Terry McAuliffe, whose ideas are as vague as his knowledge of governance here in the Old Dominion — “The Virginia Way” — is sketchy, could turn this reputation on its head.

Less than seven weeks out from Election Day, it’s high time Virginians took sufficient stock of this situation to ask themselves: “Is this what we want from a governor — drinks and deals?”

The NVTC may have done us all a huge favor.