Ass Named Trippi.”

Terry McAuliffe’s jibe at Brian Moran’s campaign strategist was the hardest hitting line from last night’s gubernatorial comedy fest at the Capitol Correspondents’ annual dinner.

For the most part, each of the four candidates served up an engaging mix of self-deprecating humor and mild skewering of their opponents.  If you think, like I do, that the ability to laugh at oneself is a positive character trait, we have nothing to worry about with any of the candidates seeking office.

McAuliffe joked about his inability to pronounce Virginia names correctly. Deeds noted that he would solve the transportation problem by tearing up the pavement across Virginia since they were never any traffic jams on the dirt roads where he lived. And Moran spoke about the travails of being the youngest of seven kids with Congressman Jim as a sibling.

But perhaps the best self-deprecatory line came from Bob McDonnell who said that he was so worried last week about what the Democrats were going to say about him at the JJ Dinner, he was thinking of calling up Pat Robertson and asking him to direct a hurricane toward the Richmond Convention Center.

Overall, McAuliffe and McDonnell had the most deft comedic touch with Deeds, Moran and McDonnell all offering well chosen and touching tributes to one of the evening’s honorees, former Post reporter Robert Melton.

My sense was that the audience was most surprised by McDonnell. Much of the media know him as a buttoned up type of guy who’s very careful not to make mistakes. In private, however, he’s quick-witted, genuinely funny and very skillful at political repartee. He has been showing this side of himself more and more on the stump of late and, last evening, it was on full display.

And if McAuliffe’s line about Joe Trippi was the shapest cut of the night, he also offered the most reflective statement about what campaigns should be about. McAuliffe said that campaigns should be a battle between big ideas, that people should express themselves passionately and that candidates should have fun doing so.

Given the talents and personalities of the four candidates this year,  we might actually see a contest that approximates this standard.

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