Terry McAuliffe called this week for a complete ban on gifts and trips from lobbyists for all legislators and members of the executive branch.
The Moran camp and the Republican Governor’s Association each used the proposal as an opportunity to brand McAuliffe a hypocrite.
Pointing to a fundraiser that McAuliffe had attended sponsored in part by a well known lobbyist, Moran’s spokesperson Jesse Ferguson said “this would be like doing a fundraiser for Rush Limbaugh and 48 hours later calling for a ban on right wing talk radio. ”
Referring to a campaign event this week when McAuliffe told a lobbyist that “if you want to write a check now, I’d be glad to take it,” Mike Schrimpf, the Communications Director for the Republican Governors’ Association, remarked that “Terry McAuliffe is the ultimate two-faced politician…Just like a chameleon, McAuliffe changes his appearance depending on his circumstances.”
The bipartisan tag team that emerged in response to McAuliffe’s proposal tells us something important about the campaign.
On one hand, the attack reveals where McAuliffe’s opponents- in both parties - think that he is most vulnerable. They want to argue that McAuliffe is not a person with a set of strong principles, but a man of expedience, tailoring messages to the audience of the moment and taking dollars from whomever will write the check.
And while the McAuliffe campaign may believe that becoming a crusader for open government positions him as a Reformer and not an Insider, I still can’t see how the chief fundraiser for the Clintons and the former head of the Democratic National Committtee can try to become The Ethics Guy without inviting the assaults that were launched against him this week.
At the same time, the fact that the Republican Governors Association tag-teamed with Moran indicates that the national party sees McAuliffe, at least today, as either the most likely and/or the strongest opponent against McDonnell.
This is a view that is increasingly expressed.
I was on the Jimmy Barrett radio show in Richmond this week and he asked me why does McAuliffe seem to be the only Democrat that’s very visible.
It’s possible, of course, that the visibility that McAuliffe is buying on the television won’t have much of an impact on a primary electorate, especially if it is the low-turnout friends and neighbors affair that Moran and Deeds hope it will be.
I’m still not sure what will be the decisive factor driving turnout in the June primary.
But I would be surprised if the GOP doesn’t continue its tag team effort, jumping into to the Democratic ring and throwing a chair at McAuliffe whenever the referee isn’t looking.