Sunday, October 31, 2010

Tom Perriello and Barack Obama

It's not news -- at least not anymore -- that President Barack Obama attracted a crowd of more than 7,000 people when he came to Charlottesville on Friday to speak at a rally on behalf of incumbent Congressman Tom Perriello (D-Ivy).

The event was carried live on local television stations, from the landing of Air Force One at CHO through following the motorcade down a deserted Route 29 through the speech itself to the lift off of the President's airplane barely two hours later.

The question remains, however, as to why the President came to Charlottesville in the first place.  The appearance was, it seems, the only one at which Mr. Obama offered his campaign support to an individual Member of the House of Representatives.  (In other campaign appearances around the country, the President spoke on behalf of candidates -- some incumbents, some not -- for the U.S. Senate and for governor, but not for House Members.)

Here's my interpretation of the events of these past days, which must have been pretty heady for local Democrats.  People who live in Washington, D.C., can be cynical about presidential motorcade sitings, but such things are rare in Central Virginia.  (In the past 100 years or so, there have been scattered visits by Franklin Roosevelt, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton [as president-elect], and George W. Bush.  Charlottesville is long past the days when three presidents called it home.)

So why did Obama come?  And why did Perriello accept his visit, considering that the Fifth Congressional District is far more conservative than Perriello himself is, or claims to be?

It might not be risky for Perriello to be seen (figuratively) bumping fists with Obama at Charlottesville's downtown pavilion, in a city where Democrats show a routine 4-to-1 advantage in election returns.  But down toward Farmville and Bedford and Danville, associating with the highly unpopular president days before the election is quite risky.  It might make Charlottesville and Albemarle voters more enthusiastic about their candidate -- who they were going to cast a ballot for, anyway -- but it might also incite fence-sitting or complacent conservative voters farther south.

So, my take on all this:  Regardless of whether Perriello wins or loses next Tuesday, the new Democratic establishment is setting him up to be a favored candidate for statewide office in 2013.

Face it, after the Republican sweep of 2009, the Democrats don't have much of a bench of eager potential candidates for governor, lieutenant governor, or attorney general.  Terry McAuliffe may be up for a repeat run for the Democratic nomination for the top spot, but few others seem to want to go through the (political and personal) pain that plagued Creigh Deeds last year.

Democratic powerbrokers see Tom Perriello as a rising star within their party, an opinion shared by many in the party's grass roots.  He voted for Obamacare, cap-and-trade, and the failed stimulus package but kept his distance on the administration's budget, banking "reform," and other controversial issues. He has a great resume:  two degrees from Yale, experience as a humanitarian in combat zones overseas, and at least two years as a Member of Congress.  He's proven himself to be a hard worker and indefatigable campaigner. (It helps that he's unmarried and childless.)

My prediction is that, win or lose on November 2, Tom Perriello will be a candidate for Virginia Attorney General in 2013.  I also predict that the Democratic Party will give him a clear path to the nomination.  (Sorry, Senator McEachin!  You had your chance.)

I can't wait to talk to Ken Cuccinelli to ask him what he thinks of his re-election opponent.

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J. Tyler Ballance said...

The interesting part of this campaign is how Virginians, who previously elected, "family values" candidates, now have two mysteriously single men as their Congressmen, in Glenn Nye and Tom Perriello.

In the recent past, not having a wife would have been a disqualification to get the nomination, let alone, to hold office.

Given comparable candidates, I still prefer to elect a man who has had to suffer the bonds of matrimony. Having had such experience, just like having been a P.O.W. bonds men together, and (we hope) makes those who get to positions of authority, somewhat more compassionate toward the plight of the American fathers.

James Young said...

It is a sub silentio commentary on the vacuity of the modern Democrat Party that it considers a lightweight like Perriello as "a rising star within their party."