Playing the Warner Card

Erstwhile Democratic LTG candidate Jody Wagner is playing the Mark Warner card for all it’s worth in her latest fundraising email. This time, the campaign’s copywriters use my Sorensen colleague Margi Vanderhye to carry a message that’s sure to become universal, and ultimately nauseating, by sometime next February. First, a salvo we haven’t heard in at least three years:

The major credit rating agencies reaffirmed our AAA credit status, and helped keep our state government finances running at peak efficiency.

Yup, they are running so efficiently that the state budget is swimming in red ink. The real question is whether they can continue to be models of efficiency after they get their “full Detroit” haircuts next year.

We might never know, as the Democratically-controlled Senate stomped all over an enhanced budget transparency bill last year, largely because such a move seemed to offend Sen. Edd Houck’s delicate sensibilities.

We also might never know how one agency in particular — VDOT — would perform under a tighter budget because during the special session, Senate Democrats ignored a bill from the House that would have mandated an independent performance audit (it passed the House 95-0).

But on we go, to the real meat of the email:

She’s the only candidate who worked as Treasurer with Mark Warner to save our credit rating after years of Republican mismanagement, and the only candidate who worked as Secretary of Finance in the Kaine Administration when Virginia was named best managed state for the second time in a row.

Does Wagner really want to re-fight the 2004 tax increase? Really? That ought to be a hoot, in part because the hike passed even as the state was about to reap a series of budget windfalls.

And as for management, well, I’ll believe her on that one after she gets that eye exam.

So there it is: just as Terry McAuliffe is running as the Warneresque candidate of competence, accountability and “moving forward” (are we there yet…anywhere?), so, too will every other member of the Democratic ticket. It makes perfect, if superficial, sense, considering how well Warner polled in the Senate race.

But are any of them really Mark Warner’s clones? Of course not. And let’s not forget that until the 2004-vintage Republicans caved to Warner on taxes, he was widely derided as a failed governor who was in way over his head. Everything Warner is today (good morning, Senator-elect), he owes to a small band of 17 House Republicans and more specifically, to an even smaller group who famously “took a walk” when it came time to crush Warner’s tax hike in committee.

I don’t think the GOP will be throwing Terry, Jody, Creigh or Brian any such lifelines any time soon.

Then again…

(cross-posted at Tertium Quids)