While The Virginian-Pilot isn’t the biggest power broker in Virginia politics, its recent endorsement of Democratic Party candidate for governor, Terry McAuliffe, represents an important stepping stone for the one-time Democratic Party fundraising wizard. Although McAuliffe continues to hold a comfortable lead in the public opinion polls over his Republican Party challenger, Ken Cuccinelli, political commentators and mainstream news media outlets have been shy about throwing their support behind one of these men (or Robert Sarvis).
The difficulty McAuliffe has had getting traction among Virginia’s ‘elite’ political commentators was directly reflected in the Pilot’s unflattering endorsement of McAuliffe for Virginia governor. The following unabridged quote comes from Sunday’s endorsement of McAuliffe: “Like his opponents, he supports drilling for oil and gas off Virginia's coast, a position that needlessly risks two of this region's biggest economic engines: the military and tourism. He is saddled with baggage after decades as a fundraiser in national party politics, as a businessman whose political and financial interests frequently intertwine and as someone whose connections to powerful figures have proven as much a liability as an asset.” This kind of endorsement probably wasn’t what McAuliffe had in mind.
The endorsement also demonstrates the wholly undesirable prospect of a Cuccinelli tenure as governor of Virginia. Among the many oddities of Cuccinelli and his campaign for governor is the tension between his libertarian rhetoric and his deeply conservative social views. On the one hand, Cuccinelli claims that less government is good government, while holding firm to the idea of government as a tool to implement what the attorney general sees as desirable social goals. Clearly, then, Cuccinelli is no libertarian who favors a less active government, at least in social policy.
While Mr. McAuliffe may not be the perfect candidate for Virginia governor, he is the best candidate that Virginian’s have to choose from, and no one can say for sure whether or not McAuliffe will be a boon or a bane in Virginia’s Executive Mansion. After the McDonnell/Cuccinelli era, however, I’m more than willing to give McAuliffe the benefit of the doubt. So too, it seems, is The Virginian-Pilot.