The Washington Post has endorsed Terry McAuliffe for governor of Virginia, which is not the least bit interesting. What is interesting is the logic they used to endorse him.
The Post says that McAuliffe is “a legendary dealmaker”:
Even Republicans in Richmond privately admire Mr. McAuliffe’s salesmanship prowess. As governor, he made 35 trips overseas to drum up business and jobs — one every six weeks, on average — and dozens more domestically. His job-creating coups included luring Nestlé USA to transfer its U.S. headquarters to Rosslyn from California, and CoStar Group to Richmond from North Carolina. When he left office in January 2018, the state’s jobless rate of 3.6 percent was significantly below the national average.
Gosh, did he write the book on the art of dealmaking, too?
McAuliffe’s overseas trips are largely catnip for journalists (and McAuliffe probably doesn’t mind traveling the world, either) who think that if politicians say the right words to a businessman, he will do what they want. Governors — of both parties and in every state — love to take credit for any business that moves into their state during their time in office. They do often provide tax credits and other incentives to businesses to encourage their moves. Personal relationships do matter. But the idea that businesses will move to Virginia because Terry McAuliffe graces them with his presence is ridiculous. Not quite as ridiculous as the idea that Donald Trump was going to get Kim Jong-un to drop his nuclear program by virtue of Trump’s irresistible personal charm. But it’s the same basic thought.
Here’s Nestle USA’s stated rationale for moving to Rosslyn:
With the food and beverage landscape continuing to transform at a rapid pace, Nestlé has been innovating and making strategic changes to the business over the past five years. This move is the next step in our evolution,” said Paul Grimwood, Chairman and CEO of Nestlé USA. “We carefully considered a number of options and Arlington hits all the marks. Not only is it attractive to our current employees while offering a great talent pool for the future, but this location allows us to be closer to our business operations, our customers and other important stakeholders.”
Reading between the lines, it’s reasonable to infer that the “other important stakeholders” would include the food and drink regulators at the various federal agencies who just so happen to work directly across the Potomac River from Rosslyn. Terry McAuliffe is not responsible for the location of the nation’s capital. There’s a long list of factors that businesses weigh when making relocation decisions, and a handshake from Terry McAuliffe is pretty low on that list. That’s especially true for a massive, global company like Nestle, which, as the CEO said, moved as part of a five-year-long change in corporate strategy. We can safely assume that the results of the Virginia gubernatorial election did not play a major role in their internal discussions.
There’s a natural human instinct, left over from our tribal days, that if we have the right Big Man who will fight for us, we will win (and win bigly, some might say). Even the editorial board of the Washington Post is susceptible to it.