RICHMOND, Va. – If former Virginia Governor Doug Wilder’s phone rings this week and the operator says “Hold for Governor McAuliffe,” Senator and former Governor Mark Warner won’t be surprised.
The RTD’s top state political columnist Jeff Shapiro is advising Terry not to make that call. Jeff suggests Terry can achieve his top priority – Medicaid expansion – through an executive branch power play bypassing the General Assembly.
Jeff’s a smart guy, but McAuliffe can’t win politically should he adopt Jeff’s approach. Moreover it could easily sink the Democratic gubernatorial candidate in 2017.
I support the Governor’s policy goal on providing better health care – at less cost to the Virginia state treasury – for the financially stressed working families and retirees at the heart of the Medicaid expansion debate.
Norm Leahy and I have been pointing out the need for a different strategy for months given the political realities.
Jeff’s approach leaves only scorched political earth, hardly a fertile field for McAuliffe to grow a positive statewide image.
The Goldman alternative Governor McAuliffe might consider is what then Governor Mark Warner did to help fix a big mess inherited upon taking over the reins of state government.
He tapped Wilder to head a bi-partisan commission to help address the state’s fiscal issues.
At the time, my fiscal credentials were gilt edged, having received a lot of praise for a well-received Washington Post OPED coining the term “twin deficits” to explain the state’s current and long-term fiscal woes.
It took some convincing Warner, but the new Governor soon realized the many short and long-term advantages in such a Commission, headed by a guy who had won awards and been praised by the country’s top Republican newspaper for being the most fiscally responsible chief executive of a major state.
Warner and I later had a falling out over Wilder’s handling of the Commission, Mark blamed me as Democrats have done in these matters since Noah and the flood. Such is life.
But the truth is quite different.
Wilder’s Commission not only earned praise for developing key initiatives, but – in terms of my political strategy for Warner – it did precisely what had been predicted.
It proved the first high profile effort to project and build the bipartisan, no-nonsense fiscal image at the heart of Mark’s political appeal. Right now, the polls are dreadful for almost all other Democratic Senators on the fiscal issues. But not Warner, who as I predicted would gain the coin of the realm in Virginia, a fiscally conservative money image.
Enter then Governor McAuliffe, now staring at the state budget on his desk awaiting action. It doesn’t have Medicaid expansion, the Governor’s top priority.
He blames Eric Cantor’s loss for stampeding General Assembly Republicans into the “tea party” anti-Medicaid expansion camp. As his team knows, I predicted such Cantor-related fallout back in April.
The Governor is right, Cantor’s political weakness spooked Republican legislators worried about a nomination challenge next year. A vote for Medicaid expansion could easily be labeled as “pro-Obamacare” by a Tea Party challenger. Why take the political risk?
What now? Terry should take a winning page out of Warner’s play book. Wilder’s fiscal credentials have been praised by the last two GOP Governors and Republican House of Delegates Speaker Bill Howell. What other Democrat has that kind of street cred in Virginia today?
But you say, “McAuliffe can’t ‘control’ Wilder.”
That’s why he is the perfect choice. As Governor, he even cut money to the University of Virginia – the ultimate political sacred cow – to keep a pledge to fully fund the state’s “safety net” without raising taxes.
I haven’t talked to Wilder about this column. Why should I? My record on fiscal issues, as Warner knew, will stand the test of time too.
It’s TMAC’s choice: Jeff or PG.
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.