Is the NRA going to make Virginia a test case for their clout as a way to set the table for 2014?
by Paul Goldman
Tomorrow could be the biggest day in the entire 2013 campaign for Virginia governor. According to news reports, the president will be unveiling important, perhaps unprecedented at least in modern times, proposals and/or executive actions as relates to the rights of Americans as regards firearms. We can assume at least some of his proposals and/or executive actions will have not been supported before by any successful candidate for Virginia governor, LG or AG. The same for but a handful of winning candidates for House of Delegates, if that many.
Bottom line: Depending on what President Obama unveils tomorrow, it could potentially have a significant impact on the upcoming race for governor, LG and AG.
Mary Sue Terry is the last candidate for governor to try to "push the envelope" in Virginia during her unsuccessful run in 1993. She got crosswise with the NRA for favoring a waiting period - if I remember correctly - for gun purchases. Governor Wilder had managed to keep the NRA at bay in order to pass the "one gun a month" law, aimed at removing Virginia from the list of the top gun running states on the East Coast. It worked with the help of then Federal Prosecutor Richard Cullen.
Mary Sue Terry thought the landscape had thus perhaps changed and she aimed her new gun position - different than the one she had cultivated when a rising star from Southside - at voters in NOVA. Her proposal "tested well" in the polls and focus groups. But it fell flat in real life.
A generation later, President Obama believes the politics on gun issues has changed due to the Newtown horror. But his jurisdiction is all the states; what might be politically helpful in some even most might be a tough sell in Virginia this November. It will of course all be clear with 20-20 hindsight. However this is not the test for the winner this coming November.
My gut call: The president will be unveiling at least several items that will indeed have a significant impact on the politics of 2013 this year. As I have written many times, the "real events" determine winners and losers most of the time in elections. Newtown is a real event; the reaction from the U.S. president as regards his advice to his fellow Americans as regards that real event is itself a real event.
I know President Obama is leaning toward making a "statement" tomorrow as regards this message: he will not accept the status quo as it relates to gun violence. But the political impact will be in the details.
If I were still a bookie - that is someone who had to hit the books, what did you think I meant? - I would bet on the president hitting a few political nerves here in Virginia with his press release and the like tomorrow on gun issues. Like it or not, the weighty issues of governance facing the next governor don't match the "sex, drugs and rock and roll" appeal of interest to most of us despite our denials. The "wedge issues" like guns do: that is why they move voters all the time and may change election outcomes some of the time.
It could be a very interesting day in the life of the next governor tomorrow. Not to mention the politics of the 2013 General Assembly Session.
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