Top of the Ticket

Political commentary from the LA Times

« Previous Post | Top of the Ticket Home | Next Post »

With McAuliffe's fall in Virginia, the end of the Clinton machine?

June 10, 2009 |  7:43 am

There are lots of reasons why Terry McAuliffe, national campaign director for Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign last year, lost his own debut in electoral politics in Tuesday's race for governor of Virginia.

Terry McAuliffe campaigning with ex-president Bill Clinton

First, there was the carpetbagger issue. Though he has lived in tony McLean, Va., with wife Dorothy and their children for 17 years, the fast-talking McAuliffe was raised in Syracuse and comports himself with the manic energy -- and speed talking -- of a New Yorker.

Second, there was the fact that the victor, state Sen. Creigh Deeds, simply crushed his two Democratic opponents, winning the right to face Republican Robert McDonnell in the fall.

Deeds, a down-stater with ties to rural Virginia and an awesome team, won nearly 50% in the three-man race, beating the better-financed McAuliffe and rival Brian Moran in every region of the state. And he did it by besting them not only at the outside glad-handing game but at McAuliffe's alleged strong card: the inside political game. When Deeds, the only Dem in the race not from the vote-rich, left-leaning northern Virginia suburbs of D.C., won the endorsement of the Washington Post on May 22, it must have been a huge wake-up call to the McAuliffe team.

Among those who Think Deeply about politics, there was even speculation that McAuliffe, as he did in directing Hillary's campaign last year, waited too late to attack -- in this case, on Deeds' record as a gun supporter. Late in the campaign, relatives and survivors from Virginia Tech -- scene of that horrific mass shooting in 2007 that killed 32 -- issued a statement condemning Deeds' pro-gun stance. The question to the McAuliffe folks, who helped disseminate the statement, why wait till election day?

But to many, some with more glee than others, the McAuliffe loss in Virginia is the last nail in the coffin to the Clinton machine that once catapulted a little-known governor from Arkansas and his Ivy League-educated ambitious wife into the White House.

One problem for McAuliffe in advertising his Clinton credentials, as Hotline noted, is that Barack Obama beat Hillary Clinton by 29 points in the Virginia primary and then became the first Democrat in 44 years to turn the state blue in the general election.

Another is that Bill Clinton, who stumped for McAuliffe in Roanoke and Richmond, rich with African American voters, is no longer the rock star he once was in that community. Fairly or not, the former president's remarks during Obama's historic run for the presidency have dimmed his star and, with it, those of his acolytes.

-- Johanna Neuman

Click here for Twitter alerts on each new Ticket item, Or follow us @latimestot

Photo: Jared Soares / Roanoke Times