RICHMOND, Va. – Predictably, Virginia’s political “experts” said the surprise resignation of Democratic Senator Phil Puckett was a huge blow to Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe.
They have all inhaled what a friend called the Chloroform of Conformity.
“McAuliffe’s Hopes Wrecked” is their mantra. The “experts” proclaimed Puckett’s leaving will:
1. Allow the GOP-controlled Senate to join the GOP-controlled House of Delegates to pass a budget without Medicaid expansion contrary to the Governor’s wishes
2. That will lead to McAuliffe being denied a major legislative achievement
3. Which will require McAuliffe to call a Special General Assembly session in order to beg for some Medicaid legislation
4. That will highlight his troubles from now until 2017 since the Puckett Senate seat leans heavily GOP producing a McAuliffe gubernatorial future facing a GOP-dominated legislature dooming the new Governor to cut deals his Democratic base won’t like or refuse to compromise and alienate independents.
It is a good script if you like fiction, but the truth is Puckett’s resignation is a political gift for Governor McAuliffe.
The “experts” are playing checkers. So let’s play chess.
1. The Governor had zero chance of getting a budget including Medicaid expansion given his strategy BP: Before Puckett resigned.
Yes, it was his top priority, but like California Chrome, he was going to run out of the money. Even his staunch ally, the Virginian Pilot, said on Sunday the Governor needed to back off and take a budget without Medicaid.
2. Accordingly, McAuliffe was Sean Penn, aka Dead Man Walking, on his top priority.
3. But now, AP- After Puckett resigned – these same “experts” are going to say the new Senate math left McAuliffe no choice but to concede.
4. This allows McAuliffe to say he tried to keep his promise, but the heartless Republicans refused. Knowing this, Republicans will agree to a Special Medicaid Session since the Governor can call one anyway.
5. Professor Holsworth is right, whatever dreams McAuliffe had for creating a big legacy based on legislative achievements seems dead.
6. But what Professor Holsworth neglected to mention is that McAuliffe never had a chance to achieve this dream anyway BP. The House GOP wasn’t going along.
7. Moreover, Medicaid Expansion was never a legacy builder, it isn’t a big enough issue with Virginians.
8. Accordingly, getting something from a Special Medicaid Session is the best McAuliffe could have done anyway.
9. Starting with Baliles [transportation], Wilder [fiscal management], Warner [taxes], Kaine [budget discipline], McDonnell [transportation], every Governor since the General Assembly became a true two-party venue needed Democratic and Republican votes to achieve a recognized legacy.
The only Governor who tried a “my way or the highway” approach – Republican “Deficit” Jim Gilmore – evoked derision in both parties.
10. McAuliffe, the only Governor in the two party era elected with less than 50 percent of the vote, therefore has always needed a bipartisan legacy coalition more than the others.
HOW PUCKETT LEAVING GIVES MCAULIFFE A GREAT LEGACY OPENING
“Virginia’s Education Governor” is the legacy with McAuliffe’s name waiting to be etched on it.
Every modern-era Democratic Governor has made education a priority:
Robb [teacher salaries], Baliles [teacher salaries], Wilder [educational equality], Warner [community colleges], Kaine [pre-school].
I had the good fortune to write some of their platform planks or contribute ideas for others, but none achieved the reputation as “Virginia’s Education Governor.”
Warner and Kaine, now Senators, along with former Republican Governor Bob McDonnell, have all united for several years behind a path-breaking education initiative.
Last year the State Education Department produced a report showing it was needed now more than ever. Whether this initiative – already supported by McAuliffe, Bill Clinton, even Eric Cantor – is the one or some other, the bottom line remains the same:
While the right policy, Medicaid expansion was never a legacy builder, education is. And with Puckett leaving, fate has closed one door while providence now opens another.
Paul Goldman is in no way affiliated with WTVR. His comments are his own, and do not reflect the views of WTVR or any related entity. Neither WTVR nor any of its employees or agents participated in any way with the preparation of Mr. Goldman’s comments.