Greetings, dear readers. Before we dive mirthfully into the fact that Donald John Trump is now the de facto Republican presidential nominee, we’d like to hop into the wayback machine and take a quick trip to the evening of Saturday, April 30, when Republican Party of Virginia state convention attendees gathered to approve a slate of delegates for the national GOP convention in July. Now remember: Trump won the Virginia primary, and thus whichever slate was chosen would be obligated to vote for him on the first ballot. But back then, in those halcyon days when the #NeverTrump movement had yet to realize it was a complete joke, the fight to elect anti-Trump delegates (who would theoretically abandon him on the second ballot) was fully engaged.
Leading this fight was former attorney general Ken Cuccinelli, who was there to make sure his preferred candidate, Ted Cruz, dominated the delegate race. Opposing him was Trump’s Virginia campaign chairman Corey Stewart, a Prince William county supervisor and candidate for governor who is, if possible, even more of a nut job than Cuccinelli (to be clear, this may not actually be possible).
As these two tactical geniuses girded themselves for battle, the assembled throng of pumped-up partisans engaged in an unofficial voice vote for the three remaining would-be GOP nominees, which went about as expected. Cruz! (Huge cheer.) Trump! (Less huge cheer.) John Kasich! (A sad smattering of applause that sounded like air leaking from the tail end of a balloon dog.)
But once the actual voting began, it became clear that Trump’s Virginia delegate operation was, like the man himself, a completely disorganized and ad hoc affair, with no actual plan other than to show up and make noise. And so the Cooch steamrolled them, getting a slate approved that was 10-3 in favor of Cruz. Even better, Cuccinelli trash-talked the Trump effort (“This is a competition. And they are incapable of competing effectively on the ground,” he sneered to the Richmond Times-Dispatch), and bragged that he could have easily nabbed all 13 slots, but gave three to Trump as an “olive branch.” (Stewart, charmer that he is, angrily retorted that it was actually a “screw-you branch.”)
And we all know what happened next. Trump romped to victory in the Indiana primary, and Cruz and Kasich immediately dropped out, essentially ceding the nomination to the orange-hued huckster.
The fallout from this insane turn of events is really just beginning, but one thing’s for certain: The electoral prospects of elephants across the commonwealth just took a huge hit. Cuccinelli has already announced that he will not be running for governor in 2017, and Republicans from U.S. Representative Dave Brat to once-and-future gubernatorial hopeful Ed Gillespie have been mouthing the sort of tepid, generic words of support you might use when discussing a future son-in-law whom you secretly despise. (“Republican voters have nominated Donald Trump for president, and I will vote for him against Hillary Clinton,” Gillespie said, issuing a written statement so you couldn’t see him gritting his teeth.)
And so, as we contemplate the upcoming presidential battle for the swing state of Virginia, for once we heartily agree with a Republican strategist, Tucker Martin, who told the Times-Dispatch: “I don’t expect Virginia to be a battleground state this time around. Hillary will win, and I believe she will win handily. And that makes any chance of the Republican Party winning the White House that much more unlikely.”
We couldn’t have put it better ourselves.
Odd Dominion is an unabashedly liberal, twice-monthly op-ed column covering Virginia politics.