Virginia’s David “Mudcat” Saunders is a rare political consultant who actually changed how a major party approached voters. For years, he warned his fellow Democrats they couldn’t ignore rural, culturally conservative voters. He got his client Mark Warner to attend NASCAR races during his 2002 Senate race and personally convinced Jim Webb he could run as a Democrat in 2006 because of his appeal to rural voters. Both men won.
But the populist Saunders has had it with this year’s Democratic candidate for governor in Virginia, former Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe. He’s so fed up that he’s endorsing conservative Ken “Cooch” Cuccinelli for governor. He says the Republican’s economic record is better than that of the “corporatist” McAuliffe and so are his ethics. “I see a guy who’s got rich because of his political contacts, and I think that’s wrong,” he told the Washington Post about McAuliffe. “I’ve known Cooch and Cooch is not a crook. If he was, he wouldn’t be broke.”
Saunders says Democrats have forgotten his advice about rural voters as they’ve courted environmentalists. “Once my party starts caring for the people at the bottom of the mountain as much as they care for the trees at the top of the mountain, I’ll join the conversation. That’s the deal with Cooch. Cooch deals with the people at the bottom of the mountain.”