Terry McAuliffe got what he wanted. No matter how unexpectedly narrow the margin of victory, the greatest fundraiser the Democratic party has ever seen has now followed in the footsteps of his fellow former party operative, Mark Warner, and he will be the next governor of Virginia. Warner used his impressive record in that office to springboard his way to the Senate, and maybe beyond.
But things won’t be quite as easy for McAuliffe as they were for Warner. The governorship doesn’t look quite like the same launching pad to even greater ambitions that it was in recent history. For one thing, Warner’s emergence onto the national scene made Virginia Republicans more determined to not allow for the creation of another Warner, a governor who was able to push through much of his agenda with the help of moderate, pragmatic conservatives. For another, although Virginia’s demographic shifts of recent years, which have seen the state’s population shifting towards the D.C. suburbs, have been helpful in presidential and gubernatorial elections, they don’t matter as much on a state level: The state’s GOP has not only moved rightward, but it has gerrymandered with the sharp precision and steeliness of a Soviet figure skater. Even Northern Virginia is full of hardline GOPers now, and the House of Delegates is thoroughly stocked with them.
There was already evidence of the difficulty McAuliffe may have in getting his agenda through the staunchly Republican House of Delegates. Last night, the state's GOP Chair Pat Mullin announced that McAuliffe "doesn't have a mandate," and said that as a result the House of Delegates will block any "crazy ideas" coming from the governor's mansion. You can bet that their idea of what is "crazy" will be an expansive one.
Here's the House of Delegate's speaker, Republican William Howell, laying out that viewpoint for the Post:
Howell, the House speaker, said much of what McAuliffe has promised is based on his misunderstanding of how state government works. McAuliffe has promised, for instance, to invalidate the abortion clinic standards by issuing a “guidance opinion” — something state officials say does not exist. McAuliffe seems ready to operate under “that new rule where they can change laws by fiat. He’s been listening to Obama too much,” Howell said.
Still, McAuliffe has a reputation for being a dealmaker. As a House of Delegates Democrat said to the Post, "'He studied at the foot of the master. Clinton was striking deals with guys who’d impeached him.'” Whether Virginia Tea Party Republicans want to strike deals, though, remains to be seen.