One of the most interesting things about debate night on Twitter is that you get to see the entire troll armies of the respective campaigns do battle — a contest I did my best to refrain from engaging in until the entire debate was over.
At this rate, Republican gubernatorial nominee Ed Gillespie turned in a capital performance tonight. Pushing aside the fake accounts and paid hacks, everyone seems to be pushing a narrative online… but beyond this? A few deflated Democrats and a more-than-a-few jubilant Republicans.
Of course, if one had to pick a true winner of the debate? Chuck Todd — who probably talked more than both candidates combined and at times would not let them finish. Great moderator overall… but you gotta let the candidates run.
If you’re the Northam campaign, what options do you have left?
(1) Pretend that the Quinnipiac poll is reality; do nothing and keep doing what you’re doing. This is their most likely course of action for a couple of reasons. First, nothing is working. No one believes that the Democrats will deliver on a repeal of right to work, a $15/hr wage, or Medicaid expansion. Second, anything that comes across as a wild hook may very well come back and plug Northam in the face (see: Kilgore, 2005, death penalty). One last consideration? If the goal of both campaigns is to talk into their silos? Hillary Clinton’s performance in 2016 really ought to be enough for the Democrats in Virginia… hypothetically…
(2) Realize the race is a dead heat; do nothing. Same problem applies; the Democrats have run out of ideas. Most they can do is run on national anti-Trump sentiment and hope that el hefe does something miraculously stupid.
(3) Realize the race is a dead heat, pick Gillespie’s worst trait, and wear him down over the next four weeks. This would practically guarantee a replay of the 2013 election where both the McAuliffe and Cuccinelli campaigns took a race to the bottom and T-Mac not only got there first but outgunned Cooch in every conceivable metric. Problem is, Warner has played just about every card required to fend Gillespie off before… what will stick today that didn’t stick in 2014?
(4) Open up the playbook and go full Perriello. Let’s be honest — this is what the Democratic base wants Northam to do. Instead of playing the Virginia gentleman, take the Virginia Way and throw it right into the trash; go tell the business community to pound sand and start dealing out stiff, 80-proof, no-lie progressive politics.
It would be a version of Kilgore’s Hail Mary pass, only with five or six issues — risky at best — instructing Virginians that Gillespie wants to take away abortion, Medicaid funding, schools, roads, planes, trains, and automobiles… but it won’t do the one thing the progressives want the most: give Northam a personality transplant.
At this rate, Gillespie doesn’t really need to change a thing. After emerging from August in a better condition than where he entered it, the Republican base is united (with token exceptions) while the Democratic base is still at odds.
If conditions remain the same as they are today? Gillespie is set to become the next governor of the Commonwealth. Who would have thought that was possible just one year ago?