Archive for June 2012
It is a tough spot for Governor Bob McDonnell. He is the governor of a state in the heat of a presidential battle and he wants to be loyal to his party’s candidate. But he also has to continue to govern. He is now leading a state during a time where his opportunity to build a legacy is becoming shorter and shorter. That difficulty became an even bigger challenge when the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act. It is a law McDonnell has fought against, but one that has enorormous implications in the day to day operations of the Commonwealth.
If health care reform continues to move forward (and with the high court’s ruling that seems more and more likely) Virginia must begin to take action to prepare for the bigger parts of its implementation, which begins in earnest in 2014. The best example is the creation of health benefits exchange. It is a power states have to do for themselves, but if they wait, the feds will do it for them.
Republican governors like McDonnell are being careful to not start the implementation, for fear it may look like they have given up the fight on repealing the law. But democrats are now pouncing on the inaction, accusing the GOP of playing politics with people’s health care.
Here is my story from NBC12:
Now that the health care law has been deemed constitutional, states across America need to prepare for its continued implementation. But that’s already leading to battles here in Virginia.
The Affordable Care Act requires each state to create a health benefits exchange, where individuals and businesses could find competitive prices for health insurance.
It is supposed to be in place by 2013 and ready to operate in 2014.
In Virginia, both sides can’t agree on a way to make it happen, and politics could be to blame.
During the rocky 2012 Virginia legislative session, lawmakers, like Richmond Delegate Jennifer McClellan, presented legislation to create health benefits exchanges.
But things got a tad bit off track.
Social issues dominated the docket, pushing a debate on exchanges to the side. Meanwhile the health care law looked to be in constitutional danger, and a presidential election was heating up.
Now the high court has ruled, and McClellan is back, asking for a special session to start the process of the benefits exchange.
“We have lost precious time, and federal resources,” said McClellan. She believes it is time for the governor and Virginia republicans to accept the fact that health care reform is moving forward.
But while the Supreme Court has had its say, the presidential election is still in full swing and the Governor Bob McDonnell’s chosen candidate has promised “obamacare” won’t be around for long.
read the rest of the story on NBC12.com
Full statements from Del. McClellan and the governor’s office can be found after the jump.
It was the kind of decision that brought angst to one side and joy to the other. There isn’t much room in the middle, when it comes to the Affordable Care Act Supreme Court ruling, so it is not a surprise that both sides had a different perspective on what comes next.
Rep. Eric Cantor made it clear this will be the decision that could decide the election.
“President Obama staked his presidency on this legislation,” he said. He then challenged his supporters to get use the ruling to run to the ballot box.
“I think it is very important for folks to engage in this debate,” said Cantor. ”And know that the decision we make in November will have a very personal impact on every American.”
Extended clips from Rep. Cantor can be found below:
Meanwhile, Democratic Sen. Mark Warner couldn’t have had a more different take. Simply described in two words:
Warner said the time for partisan bickering over the health care law has passed. He believes people care more about the economy and debt.
“Even if they don’t like the health care law,” Warner said. ”They want to know how am I going to find a better job, when is this economy going to grow?”
You can see Warner’s full interview below:
Our complete report from TV on NBC12.com.
Sabato, one of the most quoted political analysts in America has more than 39 thousand followers on twitter and has made his opinion on the case very clear.
Among other things he called on Governor Bob McDonnell to get involved. Something the Governor did today when he sent the Board of Visitors a letter warning them that unless they come to some sort of resolution by Tuesday, he will ask for their resignations.
Kelly Avellino covered that portion of the story for NBC12 on Friday.
I spoke to Sabato at length about the UVA controversy, a situation that he has not given any TV interviews about. Our interview came before McDonnell issued his letter to the Board, but Sabato’s comments are still relevant considering the situation is still very much unresolved.
You can see his full comments below:
Dr. Larry Sabato, the director of UVA’s Center for Politics invited a number of journalists and former government officials to the State Capitol to discuss the 2012 race.
The panel of journalists included Christina Bellantoni, the politics editor of PBS’s NewsHour. (pictured) Jonathon Martin reporter for POLITICO, former Rep. Tom Davis, Lauren Whittington, the politics editor for Roll Call and Jill Lawrence, managing editor for politics at the National Journal.
The panel touched on a number of key issues in the race and beyond. I got a my own “mini-panel” discussion after the event. Bellantoni joined me for a live chat on NBC12′s First at 4.
You can see the full interview below:
Sabato also took some time to talk to me afterward. We discussed how the average Virginian may not be prepared for just how much attention the Commonwealth is about to get.
Governor Bob McDonnell will be among a select group of republican leaders asked to huddle with the Romney presidential campaign this weekend in Park City, Utah.
The Washington Post reported that the pow-wow will feature major donors and a group of potential running mates for Mitt Romney in the fall election.
The governor’s office confirmed Wednesday that he will be there and is expected to deliver an address at the event Saturday night.
McDonnell has been considered on the VP short list since before Romney even secured the nomination. He has already campaigned extensively for the presumptive GOP nominee. McDonnell, like most potential candidates for VP, has been very coy about his conversations with the Romney camp. He told WTOP radio last month that he was not being vetted. He later said that he wouldn’t talk about the vetting process in specifics.
Overall, a difficult legislative session that forced the governor into the middle of several controversial debates, has hurt his stock on the VP short list. However he remains a popular governor in one of the most competitive swing states in America.
His invitation to this exclusive event would indicate that he is still very much in the running.
I am pleased to report that our interview from last year of President Barack Obama was awarded an Emmy from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences National Capital Chesapeake Bay Chapter. Our special report from NBC12 was honored in the Interview/Discussion Program Special Category.
There were a number of people who played a key role in the production of this now award-winning television program.
David Brakke, NBC12′s former Operations Manager served as a photographer/producer and was there with me at the White House on the day of the interview.
Dwight Nixon, NBC12 photographer, shot the interview with Governor Bob McDonnell and edited the final project.
Matthew Harris, NBC12′s former 11pm producer, now with WPTV in West Palm Beach, served as the program’s producer.
There were also countless behind the scenes production and newsroom staffers who helped to get the show on the air. Although I was the one who accepted the trophy, they all share in this significant award.
It occurred to me in the rush of the nomination process that the special never appeared in its entirely on the internet. So here it is now. Thanks once again for everyone who helped to make this career dream come true!
No big surprises on primary night 2012 in Virginia.
If you took the “under” in my 9% voter turnout prediction for voter turnout, you were safe when it comes to the Virginia Senate Race. Turnout came in right around 5%.
You would’ve lost if you took the “under” of 9% in the 7th Congressional District. Eric Cantor brought out a tad bit more than 9% in his primary battle with Tea Party candidate Floyd Bayne.
A couple of tid-bits from the night..
*Check out my twitter feed for a few of the stand out comments from the Cantor/Allen victory rally.
*Allen asked for all his primary opponents to come together after their “inter-squad” scrimmage. Jamie Radtke, who was far and away his closest challenger put out a facebook message to her supporters, but makes no mention of Allen.
*Tim Kaine took the opportunity to hammer Allen’s record during his time in the Senate. His campaign hosted a rally of their own tonight in Richmond as well.
*You can check out my full wrap on primary night on NBC12.com
Decision Virginia is coming to you this morning from James Madison’s Montpelier. My family and I are guests of the Center for the Constitution, where I am helping produce a series of educational videos on the Constitution. While I am moderating the panel discussions on the Bill of Rights, which will later be part of an online video course through the Close Up Foundation, Karey and the kids are exploring the incredibly beautiful grounds. Including the gardens which are right behind President Madison’s home.
Montpelier is a terrific, perhaps hidden secret in the Commonwealth. It is an easy jaunt from Richmond and there is quite a bit for the kids to do. Our kids are little and my wife has been able to find plenty of places for them to run around and have fun. Their favorite part has to be when the fireflies seem to erupt from the lawn in a fantastic show each evening. Plus the bugs are easy to catch.. even for my 1 and half year old. (Don’t worry we let them all go. No fireflies were hurt in the making of this blog post.)
Unfortunately our little retreat from reality must come to an end this afternoon as we shuffle back down I-64 so I can be home in time to cover today’s Virginia Senate/Congressional Primary. It is a primary that has been largely ignored by the general public, but features two of Virginia’s most prominent politicians, former senator and governor George Allen and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.
Despite the incredibly important impact this primary could have on the Virginia political scene, there is little evidence that many people will participate. Virgina hasn’t had a Senate primary in recent memory and the last few congressional primaries in other districts have offered minimal interest from the voting public. The expected low turnout would appear to be a to the advantage of the Cantor and Allen, who have built-in name recognition and get out the vote mechanisms that would be successful in a little watched primary. Astute political observer Beau Cribbs points out that voter turnout in the 2006 Virginia Democratic Primary was only 3.45%.
However their opponents would argue that low turnout may be to their advantage, because while their supporters may be a smaller portion of the electorate, are more passionate and willing to brave a rainy day to get out to the polls.
Regardless, Cantor and Allen have not taken anything for granted. Both conducted a voting blitz in the closing days of the primary and have been filling up mailboxes and the emails of their identified supporters. While a win is a win, not winning by a large margin could be perceived by their detractors as a sign of vulnerability heading into November.
Cantor and Allen will be together to celebrate the election results in downtown Richmond tonight.
If you are planning to vote today, the State Board of Elections has put out this handy guide with information on what you need to know to make sure your vote counts.
The questions right now is turnout. How many people will pay attention to today’s vote? I am going to put the voter turnout over/under at 9%. Will it be better than that? (My guess is a little over statewide, a little less in Cantor’s district).
We will have complete coverage of the returns tonight on NBC12.
It is now less than a week before voters go to the polls in Virginia primaries and the most marquee match up of them all has turned out to be anything but exciting. One time senator and governor George Allen will be on the ballot next Tuesday in a primary that his campaign has for the most part publically ignored. Despite a relentless attack from three conservative opponents, there is nothing that indicates that the primary vote will be anything but an easy day for Allen.
It is not from a lack of trying. Each of the candidates has the make up to mimic the kind of uprising that politicians like Allen have faced in other states. Establishment republican candidates like Sen. Dick Lugar in Indiana, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in Texas and Sen. Orrin Hatch in Utah have either lost primaries or been faced into difficult runoff elections or primary votes they were not expecting. Their difficult times are all the result of conservative/tea party support that has coalesced at the right time to push the establishment candidates in to a difficult position.
Despite having all the ingredients for the same type of scenario in Virginia, Allen has survived and arguably thrived as he coasts to the nomination, setting the stage for a one on one titanic showdown with fellow former Gov. Tim Kaine in November.
Why? I’ve come up with five reasons:
1- Divide and Conquer
The fatal mistake the conservative/tea party made came early in this primary campaign. They couldn’t come up with one candidate. By facing three other candidates, Allen has successfully split the loyalty of a small, but active group of voters that would have to be together in order to be successful. Del. Bob Marshall is a hero with social conservatives. Former Tea Party leader Jamie Radtke is popular with the libertarian, fiscally conservative wing (although she is socially conservative herself). Bishop E.W. Jackson is a talented speaker and is able to excite a crowd, but by battling two other challengers, he has been unable to gain any traction.
The lack of outsider unity in challenging the establishment is what drove businessman Tim Donner out of the race. It was something he told me last summer was a necessity in overcoming Allen’s immense natural advantages.
“It is clear that a single challenger to the establishment candidate George Allen will emerge in this race,” he said. He went on to say that if was not him he’d get out-of-the-way. “I will not do anything to impede the conservative movement, and impede the movement of grass-roots conservatives.”
Donner got out, but the other three candidates never came together, and he ended up endorsing Allen.
2- Securing the base
One thing George Allen never forgot about was his base. The base helped him get elected governor and senator and despite losing in 2006, they were still there for him in a losing effort. Allen knew that it was the base that would guarantee him the nomination in 2012.
While his opponents spent a lot of time reaching out to “non-traditional” political groups, like the tea party, Allen appeared at every traditional GOP event that would have him. Women Republican Club Teas, Golf outings for legislators seeking re-election, Congressional Committee meetings. If grassroots republicans were meeting, Allen was there. There was no meeting he was above and many of those still volunteering at these events were raised on his campaigns for governor and senator. They were all too happy to have him and continue to support him.
Allen’s rock solid support from the base was most evident when the influential righty blog Bearing Drift offered their formal endorsement Monday night.
3- Raising money
No matter how hard these candidates tried, there was just no possible way for them to overcome the ability of a former governor and senator to raise money. Money not just from Virginia but from across the country. The massive cash advantage allowed Allen to hire a great deal of full-time staff. It allowed him to travel the state with ease, build a state infrastructure and take away any type of advantage his opponents could hope to muster.
Granted, in the toppling of establishment candidates, the momentum of the movement overwhelmed significant cash advantages. But in Virginia that momentum never materialized and Allen was able to stifle any appearance of it with spending.
4- No high-profile endorsements
Or perhaps this should say.. “no high-profile endorsements of anyone but Allen”. Allen quickly gobbled up the endorsement of Gov. Bob McDonnell, Rep. Eric Cantor and Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling. He successfully (at least for now) kept the unpredictable Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli out of the race and even earned the support of high-profile tea party favorites like Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) and Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI).
Meanwhile, his opponents stumbled over opportunities to get national voices to endorse their campaign and bring with it the attention that could lead to money and momentum. Former Alaska governor and Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin, who has offered her support in a few of these races, has seem disinterested in joining the fray, despite her similarities with Radtke. South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint has been noticeably absent. Radtke thought she had the endorsement of influential republican blogger Erik Erickson, only to have it taken away after an embarrassing conflict at Erickson’s annual Red State event.
This category is in flux because one of these endorsements could still come in with less than a week to go. But the chances of it having a game changing impact at this point are slim.
5- Hard work
This category might be best illustrated through a personal anecdote. It was December of 2010, a cold night in South Richmond. Former Senator George Allen was scheduled to appear at a forum on education with former DPVA chair Paul Goldman. I had received a press advisory so I thought it would be worth it to check it out. Allen had not announced his plans to run, but everyone assumed he was going to. Keep in mind this was just a little less than two years before the 2012 election.
I got to a small community center on the south side and there was no one there. Literally. The doors were locked. We had to be let in by a night janitor. We thought we were in the wrong place. He told us no, there was something happening, but we were just a little early.
About 20 minutes later, a few people trickled in. By the time it was time for the event to start, there may have been 20 people in attendance. Allen was among them. A one time governor, senator and even potential candidate for president came in ready to wax poetic on his thoughts on school choice and private/public education partnerships to a group about the size of a small church choir. We talked for a bit about his potential campaign, and then we left. He stayed. The event was scheduled to go for two hours, on a weeknight, three weeks before Christmas.
I said to my photographer Jerry Brown as we were leaving “there is NO way this guy is not running.”
Of course he was, and of course he knew what it was going to take to win. This is not to suggest that any of Allen’s opponents have not been working just as hard. I believe they actually are. But the difference between Allen and his contemporaries in other states is that they assumed that being who they were was enough to win. 2006 was clearly a wake up call for a man who did not really know what it was like to fail and its clear he doesn’t want something like that to happen again.
Now, I firmly believe that we truly have no idea what could happen on Tuesday and I am confident to leave the outcome to the voters. The point of this post was to illustrate why I believe Allen is in a strong position to win. The hardest part for this Virginia political heavyweight is that the hard work hasn’t really begun. If he is fortunate to get past this initial test, he has the biggest fight of his political life ahead of him.
Just one of the many reasons it will be the most watched race in the country.