GOLDMAN: RTD editorial board says Cantor’s opponent blew it

Posted at 10:37 AM, May 22, 2014
and last updated 2014-05-22 10:37:11-04

RICHMOND, Va. – If you want to better understand politics, then today’s RTD editorial on the Mayor’s No-Bid rigged Shockoe Stadium deal offers a great lesson.

Eric Cantor’s opponent in the 7th district primary – Randolph-Macon economics professor David Brat – sits on the Richmond Metropolitan Authority Board.

This means Brat had a perfect platform to speak out on the hottest political issue in the most important media market in the 7th Congressional District, the Mayor’s Shockoe Stadium plan.

Today, even the RTD – one of the No-Bid scheme’s biggest backers (until today!) – conceded the Jones’ financing scheme cannot be backed by any fiscally responsible office-holder, especially allegedly conservative Republicans.

The RTD editorial will receive nearly 100 percent support among 7th Congressional District Republican primary voters. This brings us to Mr. Brat, a struggling underdog in good measure because he has not found a way to make news.

But he had a way all along, as the RTD pointed out indirectly today.

The Shockoe Shocker from Mayor Jones.

It’s the hot issue with 7th district primary voters living in our media market. Richmond and the collar counties are the key to Cantor’s electoral base. They are also strongly against the Jones Shockoe No-Bid boondoggle. More and more, they view it as part of a “culture of corruption.”

Is this a fair assessment? For GOP primary purposes, it is a question that doesn’t have to be answered. The voters don’t like it big-time – in a campaign, this is enough to know.

Enter then, or could have been, Professor Brat.

Given his economics training and RMA board member perch, Professor Brat HAD THE PERFECT OPPORTUNITY to explain the reason a publicly funded baseball park in Shockoe is bad public policy, premised on the “crony capitalism” in those No Bid sweetheart deals.

From day one, Brat could have called on Eric Cantor to take a position on the issue. As legendary Speaker of the House of Representatives Tip O’Neill advised in his famed book, “all politics is local,” if you understand the game.

Moreover, federal accounting and other tax credit laws help make the Jones’ boondoggle attractive to his backers, and help promote those side-deals to get those No-bid contracts.

A savvy Brat campaign could have used Jones’ Shockoe Shocker as a catalyst to force Cantor, at least in this media market, to respond to him.

For Brat to have any statistical chance to win, he needs to do far better in this media market than previous challengers to Cantor. In non-presidential years, especially primaries, voters tend to be news consumers.

Those who don’t read the papers or follow the TV news or blog sites won’t vote in 2014. Or put another way, the Shockoe issue offered Brat a way to communicate with key voters on a regular basis through news shows, far more credible venues than attack TV ADS.

But Brat blew it, at least according to the RTD editorial today. Had Brat done what now seems self-evident – be seen as a leader in the fight a publicly-funded project voters increasingly believe doesn’t pass the “smell test” – he could have forced Eric Cantor to respond.

And getting Cantor to respond to Brat is worth 10 percent to him on Election Day. Why? Because it would give Brat a credibility he cannot otherwise achieve. Cantor knows this.

“All politics is local,” helped me craft several historic winning strategies. It’s the most important lesson in politics.

If your constituents don’t like something, the smart politician figures out a way to show them he or she is against it too.

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.