The conventional wisdom says that Democrat Governor Ralph Northam’s troubles are over, if he can just keep his head down for long enough.
Northam has gone into stealth mode since his racist yearbook photos/moonwalking incident in February, cancelling no fewer than 3 events in the face of either public outcry or protests.
Nevertheless, as they say, he persisted.
If all three members of the executive branch can ride out their respective scandals, Virginia Democrats may not take a major hit in their electoral chances this November. But Northam’s troubles may be quicksand — tranquil on top, but lethal to anything that wanders in. There’s plenty of evidence that the scandals have taken a major toll on Dems.
Saying Northam’s fundraising operation has taken a massive hit is an understatement. If historic trends are any guide, a sitting governor should have raised several hundred thousand dollars since the General Assembly session concluded. Northam’s take so far? $2,500. At his current burn rate, his PAC will be out of money by the end of the year, even without making transfers to Democrat candidates.
Lt. Governor Fairfax and Attorney General Herring haven’t fared much better, but those offices are seldom major fundraising draws. What are Virginia Democrats to do? Call in heavy firepower from out of state. This cycle, it’s the Democratic clown car full of Presidential contenders. First up? Failed U.S. Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke.
Beto made a two-day swing through Virginia, stopping in every major media market to hold “house parties” and talk up the local candidates for the House of Delegates and state Senate. As Virginia Courthouse News Service noted:
O’Rourke said it is imperative that Virginians elect Democrats to represent them at the state level.
“We gotta make sure that they’re in control of the Senate so we can continue those advances you made in 2017,” O’Rourke said. “There’s so much work left to do.”
Virginia Democrats have called on Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigeig to speak at their annual Commonwealth (formerly Jefferson-Jackson) Gala.
To date, none of them have been asked any of the crucial questions facing every Democrat seeking Virginia votes. Specifically, where do they stand in regard to the entire Executive Branch meltdown? Do they think Northam should resign? If they’re the nominee in 2020, would the campaign with Ralph Northam, Justin Fairfax, or Mark Herring?
We have gotten a brief hint of an answer from the candidates on the notorious abortion bill brought forward by Democrat Del. Kathy Tran this year. Virginia Democrats have embraced the bill, from Northam all the way down to the House of Delegates. Beto seems to be all in as well. When asked about third-trimester abortion earlier this year, Beto didn’t have any qualms.
“The question is about abortion and reproductive rights and my answer to you is that should be a decision that the woman makes. I trust her,” he said, according to a piece in National Review.
That’s not quite an endorsement of the Northam/Tran position, but it’s certainly not Tim Kaine’s ‘the current law is fine’ position either. Given the extreme reaction to Tran’s bill and Northam’s defense of it in February, it’s only a matter of time until Beto or Mayor Pete are cornered by some tenacious reporter and asked a specific, difficult to wiggle out of version of the question.
What happens when the first of many Democrat contenders come calling? Especially those who have called on Northam and company to resign, such as Corey Booker and Kamala Harris? Once the dam breaks, no 2020 contender will be able to come to the Commonwealth without being hammered by a barrage of Northam-Fairfax-Herring questions on topics they’d like to avoid — Do you believe the women? Do you support abortion until birth? Do you still think Ralph Northam should resign?
As we’ve seen, Virginia’s Democrat predicament can ensnare the unwary at a moments notice. How the 2020 Dems handle the risk — and the impact it has on Democratic fundraising in Virginia — will be something to watch closely.