Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Timing Is Everything

In late August, the online edition of the northern New Jersey newspaper, the Star-Ledger, reported

President Obama is not planning to campaign for Democrat Barbara Buono in her quest to rob Gov. Chris Christie of a second term, the Associated Press reported Friday.

This year and next, Obama only plans to lend his political firepower to close races where he could help cinch a win for his party, a Democratic official involved with Obama’s political plans told AP. The official wasn’t authorized to discuss strategy and requested anonymity, the wire service said.

No one has discovered who the "Democratic official" was, but he or she apparently was right on target.     Polls in Virginia's gubernatorial election have displayed a 5-10 point lead for Democratic gubernatorial nominee Terry McAuliffe over Repub Ken Cucinelli.  However, with a relatively large number of undecided likely voters and a third candidate, Libertarian Robert Sarvis, McAuliffe never had eclipsed the golden 50% market.  Third party candidates with no chance of voting usually end up with fewer votes than pre-election polls indicate, making the outcome less certain than otherwise.

On the evening of Monday, October 28, however, The Washington Post unveiled a survey which found Virginia Democratic gubernatorial nominee McAuliffe opening a 12-point lead over his challenger, 51 percent to 39%, with 8% of voters stating they intend to opt for Sarvis.  

News of the poll was published by Politico promptly at 8:24 p.m. Monday.    Like clockwork, as Politico's Alexander Burns reported less than three hours later at 11:06 p.m.

President Barack Obama will campaign for Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe this weekend, giving a late boost to McAuliffe as he seeks to energize core Democratic voters in an off-year governor’s race, Democratic sources told POLITICO.

Obama is set to appear at a Sunday afternoon get-out-the-vote rally in Northern Virginia. It will be the president’s first campaign appearance for McAuliffe, the former chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

Presumably, a tentative decision for Obama to enter the campaign had been made earlier.  Just as likely, the decision was tentative, subject to change at the last moment if it appeared there was any chance the GOP candidate would surge to victory.  Indeed, Burns observed

McAuliffe’s embrace of Obama is little surprise this late in the election, but it confirms that the political ground in the race has shifted since the start of the year, when Republicans hoped to win the governorship largely by running up the scoreboard among conservative Virginians hostile to the president.

It appears at this point that such a strategy is unlikely to produce a winning coalition for Cuccinelli, leaving little down side for McAuliffe or Obama in campaigning together.

The Obama camp may take some credit for Cucinelli's decisive victory after Election Day while being given little or no blame for waiting until the last minute.  And he will receive little criticism even after assiduously avoiding the gubernatorial campaign in New Jersey, a state whose GOP governor the President appeared with earlier this year and has lavishly praised.

Bold, Mr. President. Self-serving leadership we can believe in.

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