The central premise of Democrat Terry McAuliffe’s campaign for Virginia governor is that he “gets” business and can spur job creation. But it’s becoming blindingly obvious that’s all fluff and no substance.
Last week, prominent McAuliffe backers tried to strong-arm the Northern Virginia Technology Council’s political arm, Tech PAC, into reversing its endorsement of GOP nominee Ken Cuccinelli, the state’s former attorney general. State Senator Janet Howell of Fairfax wrote Tech PAC leaders last Friday that “The ramifications of [Cuccinelli] being endorsed will be huge within the Senate Democratic caucus. . . . The response [from legislators] will be frigid and doors will be closed [when the council seeks help with its legislative agenda]. Achieving the goals of NVTC will be difficult to impossible.” Other calls to Tech PAC were made by Democratic U.S. senator Tim Kaine and Bill Bolling, the Republican lieutenant governor who has declined to endorse his party’s nominee for governor.
The Washington Post article revealing the controversy is eye-opening as it shows just how much McAuliffe, who was once hand-picked by Bill Clinton to run the Democratic National Committee, bombed in his interview with Northern Virginia’s tech gurus. “The reasoning behind the NVTC TechPAC’s nod — Cuccinelli had detailed responses to questions in candidate interviews, three board members said, while McAuliffe was uninformed and superficial — bolsters the view that the Democrat’s breezy style doesn’t sit well with some Virginians.”
The Washington Post’s details of McAuliffe’s disastrous interview with representatives of one of Virginia’s most important employment sectors are fascinating:
“Terry was his normal, flamboyant self,” said a board member present for both interviews. “He didn’t want to get pinned down to any details. He didn’t give any details. He was all about jobs, jobs, jobs — ‘I’m just going to take care of the situation when the time comes. I’m just going to do it.’ It was all [expletive].”
Cuccinelli, by contrast, the person said, “was precise. He was thoughtful. He thought through all the issues. He had a clear position on all those issues, and he didn’t agree with the council on all the issues.”
Two people present said that in response to a question about how he’d accomplish his goals as governor, McAuliffe told the PAC board that as an Irish Catholic he’d be adept at taking people out for drinks and doing whatever it takes to get things done. McAuliffe is well known as a schmoozer, but he seemed to badly misread his methodical audience with that answer, several of those present said.
On a question about whether Virginia should stay in something called the “open-trade-secrets pact,” Cuccinelli gave a thoroughly researched response, the person said.
But McAuliffe answered, according to the source: “ ‘I don’t know what that is. I’ll have to look it up later.’ And then he turns back to the guy [who asked] and said ‘Well, what do you think we should do?’ And the guy says, ‘We want Virginia to stay in it.’ And then Terry says, ‘Okay, we will.’ ”
When word got around that McAuliffe would lose the Tech PAC endorsement, the Post reports that Democratic Senate minority leader Richard L. Saslaw sent a furious e-mail blasting Tech PAC for endorsing Cuccinelli who has questioned climate-change regulation and has socially conservative views. “For them to endorse a guy with his views, a supposedly enlightened group of people — science-oriented — would have been the same as in the 1960s, the NAACP supporting George Wallace,” Saslaw said.
Actually, if the Northern Virginia techies had backed McAuliffe it would have been the equivalent of endorsing 19th-century circus promoter P. T. Barnum. ABC News has reported that McAuliffe was promising to build a plant for his ill-fated GreenTech car company in Virginia after he had already decided to put its plant in Mississippi.
“‘I’m going to put it right in the heart of Virginia,’ McAuliffe told a local Virginia Boilermakers union in 2010. ‘And we’re going to have 2,000 folks down there — all of them union members — and show that when you do it right, everybody benefits, including the state of Virginia.’”
It turns out that GreenTech is now moribund and not making any cars anywhere. The Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating the conduct of GreenTech in soliciting foreign investors.
P. T. Barnum once said, “There’s a sucker born every minute.” We’re about to find out just how many his business heir, Terry McAuliffe, can find in the next six weeks before Virginia votes for governor.