Well, that sure didn’t take long! If you had asked us even a month ago which party was the odds-on favorite to sweep this year’s statewide elections, we would have (reluctantly) given the nod to the Republicans. Even though Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is a hugely polarizing figure with politics far to the right of the Commonwealth’s increasingly purple populace, he was deftly winning the personality war with Democratic contender Terry McAuliffe, whose hyperactive style and big-money fundraising roots simply weren’t clicking with Virginia’s voters.
Well, the Macker hasn’t really made any great strides in the likability department, but the Old Dominion’s elephants have suffered a series of unfortunate events so grave that it may end up sending him—and his Democratic ticket-mates—to Capitol Square by default.
It all started with the unexpected primary election of Chesapeake pastor E.W. Jackson, who came out of nowhere to capture the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor. We will not waste precious space here cataloging Pastor Jackson’s long and voluminous history of outrageous statements, financial problems, and purported drug use. Suffice it to say that Jackson set the absurdity bar very high when he was compelled to utter these words at his first post-victory press conference: “I do not believe that birth defects are caused by parents’ sin. I do not believe that yoga leads to Satanism.”
This, it goes without saying, is terrible news for the Cooch, who desperately needed a pair of boring, moderate candidates flanking him in order to make his own extremism more palatable. Instead he now has Reverend Wackadoodle on one side, and Republican state Senator Mark Obenshain on the other. Now, Obenshain—who is running to replace Cuccinelli as AG—isn’t quite as kookalicious as Jackson (who could be?), but his legislative record still presents a minefield of potential embarrassments. This is, after all, a man who once sponsored a bill that would have required any women suffering a miscarriage to report it immediately to the police.
Add to this delightfully deranged political mélange a series of increasingly visible Republican scandals, and Cuccinelli and company’s path to political power seems to grow longer by the day.
The latest black mark to besmirch the Virginia GOP’s brand came courtesy of Governor Bob McDonnell and his wife, who, according to a recent story in The Washington Post, “have billed the state for body wash, sunscreen, dog vitamins and a digestive system ‘detox cleanse,’” while also using state employees to run personal errands for their children. On top of that, Cuccinelli himself has recently been forced to defend the conduct of his staff after an assistant AG was castigated by a federal judge for providing enthusiastic assistance to two energy companies currently fighting lawsuits from citizens over natural gas royalties. (It should come as no surprise that Cuccinelli has received more than $111,000 in campaign contributions from one of these companies.)
At this point, if we were advising Terry McAuliffe, we’d tell him to gather up his running mates and repair to a bomb shelter for the next 10 weeks. After all, there’s nothing the man could do to Virginia’s Republican candidates that could possibly be worse than what they’re currently doing to themselves.