1. Cantor’s Opening Gambit: Blame the Congressional Democrats
Eric Cantor, the House Minority Whip, gained as much from the GOP’s defeat in November as any other Republican in the country. But the first test for the House’s new point person on budget and fiscal matters is a formidable one. How does he respond to the Obama stimulus package in a manner that retains his credibility with the “Less Government” base of his own party while not enabling the national media to continue portraying the GOP as the “Party of No?”
Cantor’s opening gambit: Praise Obama for his willingness to listen and blame congressional Democrats for their stubborn adherence to a failed liberalism. Cantor adopts the “give the man a chance” position that the vast majority of voters have expressed about Obama while lamenting the desire of his fellow Democrats to drag him to the left. And what’s the downside for taking on Congress?
2. And Just What Was I Supposed to Do with the House Anyway?
Governor Tim Kaine has been criticized for taking the DNC job at the very time he should be devoting his complete attention to working with the legislature to address Virginia’s economic problems. House Republicans gave initial indication this week about what they plan to do with the Governor’s agenda. His election reform package went nowhere in the Privileges and Elections committee. His plan to let non-violent prisoners out of jail 90 days before their term officially ends was given what was described as an “icy reception” at House Appropriations. And I’m not hearing many Republicans endorse his proposal for doubling the cigarette tax.
A few more weeks like this and the Governor might be wishing that he had not taken the DNC position… but had gotten out of Dodge all together and accepted Obama’s initial offer of a cabinet post.
3. Brian Moran: Insurgent
He may have left the Assembly, but everyone is talking about him this week, especially his decision to run as the insurgent, progressive alternative to McAuliffe and Deeds. After last week’s broadside against off-shore drilling on the Virginia coast, this week, Moran hired Joe Trippi and came out against the coal-fired power plant in Surry.
I’ve spoken to insiders who believe the strategy will have tremendous appeal to the activist groups in the party most likely to participate in the June primary while others are equally convinced that Democrats don’t win in Virginia by outflanking their opponents on the left.
When Terry McAuliffe entered the race, I noted that he would compel the other candidates to put forward a clear set of ideas and proposals that would provide a real choice for Democrats and for Virginia voters. After this week, there is no doubt that Moran has staked out his territory in what promises to be the most fascinating Democratic intraparty race in a generation.
4. Two Happy Spectators
Would be a good way of describing how Bob McDonnell and Bill Bolling are viewing the Democratic primary battles for Governor and Lieutentant Governor. Both are hoping that all the Democrats are compelled to take positions in a primary battle that the GOP might exploit in November’s general election. And they wouldn’t be troubled if the Democrats spend all the money they have raised in the primary contests as well.
5. A Conversation with Bill Bolling
I had the opportunity to spend some time with Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling this week. I’ve always been impressed with his perceptive and candid take on Virginia’s political landscape and our conversation was no exception. He told me that expects a tough race in November, whoever the Democratic candidate is. He referred to survey numbers that confirm the public polls showing the Democrats, at least at the moment, with a Party ID advantage over Republicans in Virginia, though there are also a sizeable number of independents. Bolling also noted that it would be a mistake for the GOP to rely on the hope that Obama’s mistakes will drive Virginians back to the GOP. He said that Republicans will be much better off if they focus on presenting voters with concrete solutions to issues that impact their daily lives. And that if the GOP succeeds in doing this, the Party ID numbers will not determine the outcome of the race.
I think that Bolling is right. Part of the Democrats’ Party ID advantage comes from Republicans who have become disaffected with their own party and started calling themselves Independents. A different kind of GOP campaign might well woo them back.
6. How Not If
This is what Assembly members are telling all the interest groups who come to visit them about budget cuts in their area of concern. But even with the If gone, you can still fight about the How. And the biggest How fight is shaping up over K-12 education. Should the education cuts include a “formula change” that will permanently impact how the state’s official obligation to public schools is calculated? Or should reductions be made in a way that does not impact the formula for the future funding of public schools.
And the political lineup on this one is curious. Governor Kaine and some House Republicans want to propose changes that will alter the formula. They believe that this can be done in a manner that has minimal impact on classroom instruction. But House Democrats, Senate Democrats and all the education-based assocations (including some that are often aligned against one another) oppose this approach. I wouldn’t be surprised if this issue winds up at the top of the list for the budget conferees at the end of the session.
7. Kudos to Albermarle and School Superintendent Pam Moran
For holding a telephone town hall to engage citizens in thinking through the options for the county’s upcoming school budget cuts. In a time of declining resources, creative civic engagement strategies can go a long way in educating and involving the public in the tough decisions that have to be made.