Here we go! A day later and its time to start thinking about 2013 and our Virginia races here in the Old Dominion. Here are the questions heading into this year.
1. What will Mark Warner do? Tim Kaine and Terry McAuliffe seem to think he's staying in the Senate, but one wonders how long someone as industrious as Warner will want to keep slogging through the Senate? The Democrats retained their majority, so that puts extra pressure on Warner to stay and run for reelection, where he will be a heavy favorite. Warner wants badly to be in the middle of the budget discussions and yet hasn't really cracked it yet. The real question is, does he want to run for president? If he stays in the Senate, he will own Barack Obama's second term if he runs. If he comes home to Virginia, he will get to chart an independent course and not be a victim to forces not under his control. My bet? If McAuliffe doesn't get off to a hot start, panicky Democrats might draft Warner. But it all depends of if he wants to run for president.
2. What will Bob McDonnell do? The curse of the Virginia governorship. McDonnell is the third straight Virginia governor to build a national profile in Richmond. Warner almost ran for president in '08, Kaine was almost Obama's running-mate and then DNC chairman, and now McDonnell heads the NGA RGA and was one of Mitt Romney's finalists for VP. But all of that ends in a year. Every Virginia governor since Chuck Robb has made a run for the US Senate (sans Baliles). Robb, Allen, Warner, and Kaine were all victorious. He has been a good governor, managed the state well, and has a high approval rating. He's also still young. I'm sure heavy pressure will be put on him to run for the Senate whether Warner is there or not. He could sit tight for six years and run against Kaine but the political ground might have shifted too much by then. McDonnell remains an attractive Republican candidate who can win conservatives and establishment alike. 2014 has the potential to be a great year for Republicans because Obama-fatigue might have set in, the only president to avoid that was Clinton because the GOP's hypocrisy in impeachment backfired. McDonnell may not get another clear shot at it. I think he makes the run.
3. How negative will Bill Bolling go? He fired several shots across Ken Cuccinelli's bow last spring/summer but as the general election campaign but men sheathed their swords and went to work. Not one day after the election, Bolling was quoted in Politico saying we don't need a "firebrand" to bring independents to the GOP. He's clearly going to paint Cuccinelli an extremist. Bolling's problem remains he has no constituency he has built himself. Nobody not being paid by him sits around and says, "shit, I HAVE to get Bill Bolling elected governor." He has now twice put his political future in the hands of others, McDonnell and Romney, and the trade-off is that he has no independent identify to run on. For those of us who have been around awhile remember Bolling as being more than a firebrand, so his entire premise for attack Ken is hypocritical.
4. How far will McDonnell let Bolling go? This combines questions 2 and 3. McDonnell still has a future in this party and he needs Ken Cuccinelli's supporters to move forward. How far is he going to let Bolling go in attacking Cuccinelli before he reels him in or cuts bait? And yes, I honestly see no way that Bolling can win a convention. He has no statewide network because he's relied on other people. He can't rely on a President Romney because that is no a fairy tale. He has to do this himself and he has a reputation of being lazy. If McDonnell and the GOP hierarchy think Bolling can't win, how far will they let him go in tearing down the nominee?
5. Can Aneesh Chopra be stopped? The question may imply that there is something menacing about him, but if you are a Republican there is. Obama's victory in Northern Virginia was due largely to the support of the growing Hispanic and Asian population here. Chopra represents the first opportunity to activate that constituency in a statewide election. The complicate matters further for Republicans, our LG race is a complete clusterf**k with several candidates who represent the wrong face of a party needing new ones. Chopra, so long he doesn't throw-up on himself, will have strong backing from across the state and from the Obama Administration, for whom he worked for. In other words, he's the new burgeoning "Real Virginia."
6. Will Democrats fight for the House of Delegates? Bill Howell's redistricting plan was a thing of beauty and has created a massive Republican majority. Yet the Democrats in 2011 barely contested the GOP. Furthermore, in the House itself the Democrats have been weak. Uplifted by Obama's reelection and Kaine's election, will Democrats make a calculated and organized campaign for HoD seats? Or will resources again be focused on the statewide races again at the expense of the House?
7. What will Ken Cuccinelli's message be? There is no doubt Virginia has changed. Demographically, Dixie is dead. But Ken isn't George Allen or Bill Bolling. He's not a Dixie Virginia. His family is from New Jersey and he grew up in Northern Virginia. Despite his deep conservatism, Cuccinelli understands the voters of Northern Virginia better than almost any other Republican in the state. He's spent his career finding ways to get elected up here without pandering. He's always been able to find issues that cut across politics, maddens his enemies, and gets him elected. Against Steve Shannon, he brought up his work with mental health. He can be elusive. McAuliffe is a much easier target than Warner, so I will be interested to see what he pulls this time.
8. Susan Stimpson? For Real? The Republicans certainly need a new young female face in the party. The sheer size and mediocrity of our current LG candidates has made an opening for the Chairman from Stafford. Fresh, new, and young Stimpson is making a heavy play for the new conservatives. She also will have Bill Howell's support, which is powerful within the party. What we don't know is if she's a Howell puppet or the next big star in GOP politics here. Certainly someone like Martin running against Chopra would be near-embarrassing for us in contrast.
9. Can The Democrats break the AG Curse of '89? 1989. That was the last time a Democrat won the office of Attorney General in Virginia. Money is on State Sen. Mark Herring will be the Dems chance. Herring has much going for his, especially his Loudoun base. It is the ultimate swing county. He has a moderate reputation and will be running exclusively against Cuccinelli's record. This race will be directly tied into the governor's race, especially if Ken is the nominee. Herring will be running to undo everything Ken did. It could also prove troublesome if Ken gets hot and wins the race. But Herring is the best candidate the Dems have had in a long time.
I can't wait to get started!