Sounds About Right


The gubernatorial primaries in Virginia on Tuesday were supposed to be about the fight over the Democratic Party’s soul.

National profile after national profile of the race (including Vox’s) focused on the battle between Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam and former Rep. Tom Perriello (D-VA). Did it represent a Bernie Sanders versus Hillary Clinton rematch? Or a key test run for the populist progressive movement?

Then the election was held, and a different storyline caught the political world off-guard. Northam, with the overwhelming support of Virginia Democratic officials across the state, crushed Perriello by 14 points. What shocked observers instead was the Republican primary, where Corey Stewart — a Confederate sympathizer and onetime campaign official for Donald Trump — came within just 1.2 points of beating former Republican National Committee Chair Ed Gillespie.

Like Jeb Bush in the Republican presidential campaign, Gillespie entered the race with massive advantages in spending, official endorsements, and name recognition. By contrast, Stewart attacked Gillespie online as a “cuckservative,” accused his opponent of treating “Donald Trump like he had typhoid,” and vowed to crackdown on immigrants and protect Confederate monuments if elected. It was quite a comeback: This fall, Stewart was fired from his position as Trump’s Virginia campaign chair after calling the RNC “establishment pukes” on Facebook.

And he almost won...


The theory didn’t prove to be true that there were thousands and thousands of populist, angry Democrats who would be willing to take a chance on somebody who hadn’t — prior to announcing his campaign for governor in January 2017 — spent more than two years in Virginia elected public life. And who, since then, had been out of the country most of the time.

Perriello’s mistake was that Perriello himself was not enough to win — there needed to be more relationships; there needed to be more connections; he had to know local Democratic committees and local Democratic officials.

At the end of the day, one reason Northam won was because you couldn’t go to any Democratic committee — or any Democratic chair or any elected Democrat in the state — who didn’t know Northam and hadn’t talked to him. At the end of the day, that makes a difference.

Perriello simply didn’t have those kinds of relationships. There was a lot of “energy” behind him, but it really wasn’t enough because Perriello hadn’t been working the Democratic electorate like Northam had been for more than a decade.
It's still the ground game that matters. The spread of the establishment's tendrils in the body politic is wide and deep throughout both national parties (we knew that - nuthin' new there).

The difference remains though:

Dems seem to be voting against their candidates by either staying home or by voicing their strong discontent, which makes it more likely for others to stay home.

Repubs have done the same in the past, but it looks like they've gotten to the point where the Tribal Loyalty thing has recently been strong enough to get them out to vote even when it's obvious to everybody else that voting for "their candidate" is voting against their own best interests.

Now, maybe we're seeing a natural backlash on the GOP side, where people woke up badly hungover and found themselves in bed with nothing but torn condoms and a sore butthole. When the Trump guy craps out in Virginia, it could be a very good sign.  But like the Vox piece says, he came a pretty close second.

Perriello got squashed by 14 points, but he was running on a "Progressive Agenda" that just makes too much sense - people love to squawk about wanting a common sense approach to governing, but when somebody steps into the ring with almost exactly what they say they want, they see it as radical and it scares 'em off (?)  Plus, "Progressive" is a dirty word to "conservatives".

Skipping to the chase - given the concentrated fervor of Radical Right Republicans for almost any kind of Trump-ish insurgency, Stewart losing by less than 2 points could be seen as a blowout in favor of restoring some level of sanity on GOP side.

And Perriello getting blown out by 14 when he has no infrastructure in place and no support from any of the top 10 Virginia Dems (and let's face it - the guy has a charisma rating somewhere between Droopy Dog and day-old guacamole) - that one starts to look a lot closer than the numbers are showing.

It ain't over, kids.