Oh, and That Guy Named Penn...

04.02.13

McAuliffe and Hillary

Ken Vogel has a big piece in Politico about how Terry McAuliffe's Virginia gubernatorial run is supposedly some kind of trial run for Hillary 2016. The Drudge-baitey headline is "Hillary Clinton's First Test." Here's the idea:

In fact, McAuliffe and some of his top allies have suggested to big donors and consultants that supporting his campaign is a way to get in on the ground floor of Hillary 2016, several donors and operatives told POLITICO.

He’s stocked his campaign with top-tier talent likely to be involved in any Hillary Clinton presidential effort, including campaign manager Robby Mook, senior adviser Patrick Hallahan and bundlers including Jonathan Mantz and Jackson Dunn.

And McAuliffe raised nearly $2 million in March alone at a half dozen out-of-state fundraisers featuring former President Bill Clinton or other Clinton insiders including James CarvilleHarold Ickes and Dee Dee Myers, according to figures provided by bundlers.

A few points.

First, while Vogel is very good, I take the packaging here with many grains of salt. Hillary's test? Is she running? A real stretch.

And probably an intentional one. Why? Because whoever wrote that headline probably knows, or certainly is supposed to know, that history suggests that McAuliffe is going to lose. Virginia elects its governor the year after the nation elects a president, and in every election since 1981, Virginians have chosen the person from the opposite party of the president. Reagan/Chuck Robb, Reagan/Doug Wilder, Bush/Mark Warner, Obama/Bob McDonnell, and so on.

So if that history holds, McAuliffe will lose, which is great for political journalism, which can then manufacture a fake story about how this somehow shows Hillary Clinton's potential weakness and let's not coronate her just yet.

That's an inevitable story line that we'll hit at some point late this year or early next. It will be secretly but insistently pushed by the Joe Biden camp. I gather that the Biden people really think their guy has a serious shot, even if HRC runs. I know. I think so too. But it's what they think. So they'll help the Hillary-is-fallible story line along.

Of course the opposite is true too--if McAuliffe bucks history and wins, then Politico will have to write that HRC is a shoo-in. Although I suppose there's plenty of time to invent reasons why that's not the case.

The most interesting thing to me about Vogel's piece is a name that's not in there: Mark Penn. I have no real idea of Penn and McAuliffe's relationship or lack thereof, but certainly there is a lot of wondering in the Clinton camp, where Penn made himself something less than admired in 2008, as to whether she will give him a role in any 2016 effort. My early guess: She is not one for drama and is big on continuity, so yes, he gets to do some polling, but he is kept away from message.