Get excited, Virginia: You’ve got the full Bloomberg treatment coming your way, via Politico:
Michael Bloomberg’s pro-gun-control super PAC will drop $1.1 million on ads for Democrat Terry McAuliffe in the final two weeks of the Virginia governor’s race.
“Terry McAuliffe and his allies are spending tens of millions of dollars in an attempt to buy Virginia’s governor’s mansion and impose an idealogical agenda that will severely restrict Virginian’s Second Amendment rights, hike energy prices for Virginia families and undermine our right-to-work laws,” said Cuccinelli communications director Richard T. Cullen.
Cuccinelli is trailing in the polls, partly because he is getting so massively outspent on television. Groups like Planned Parenthood, the National Education Association and billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer have poured in millions.
“McAuliffe’s liberal supporters like Steyer and now Mayor Bloomberg aren’t pumping millions into this race for a few laughs,” said Cullen. “They’re doing so because they expect a return on their investment.”
OK… I confess that I was rather bemused when I read this, so let’s go ahead and walk through it. Terry McAuliffe is currently leading the Virginia governor’s race by an RCP average of more than seven points, and he’s already flooding the airwaves and outspending Ken Cuccinelli by a full-on 2-to-1 ratio. McAuliffe’s fundraising skills and ultra-rich donor buddies have definitely come in mighty handy, and barring any major mishaps or some pretty wild Republican turnout numbers, it looks more or less like he has this deeply negative race well in hand as the slightly less disliked of two widely disliked candidates.
Cuccinelli’s strategy of the final few weeks of the race seems to have shifted to rallying the base in the more central and southern regions and really getting the grassroots fired up in order to encourage the aforementioned possibility for Republican turnout. It’s a necessary battle in the larger war to push back against Virginia’s encroaching purplishness — purplishness much like, say, Colorado’s, where the interference of Michael Bloomberg’s big money helped to fuel a successful grassroots movement to recall two state senators.
So… is that entirely wise? Dumping a million smackers into Cory Booker’s New Jersey race was a solid move in a safely blue state, but I’d posit that Virginia shares a lot more characteristics with Colorado on the gun-control front than New Jersey, New York, Illinois, or what have you. Virginia has successfully relaxed a handful of gun-control laws over the past few years with both success and applause, and gun-related crime has been on the decline while gun sales have been soaring. Earlier this summer, current Gov. Bob McDonnell publicly told Bloomberg and his gun control ilk to take a hike, and an August Quinnipiac poll affirmed that 52 percent of Old Dominion voters would invite Bloomberg to do the same.
Then again, the Republican camp did try to make a bigger issue out of the fact that McAuliffe is on board with background checks on private sales, magazine capacity limits, and a return to the absurdity of the one-handgun-per-month rule, and it didn’t seem to catch on as a major campaign issue about which Virginians would be ready to raise some hell.
The Bloomberg ad buy is going to be confined to the DC markets, i.e. the more bluish and very populous NoVa region, and McAuliffe has indeed actively been courting Bloomberg to go ahead and get involved for a few months now. Even if inviting gun-control discussion isn’t opening up the proverbial can of worms that could inspire some Republican backlash, I can hardly imagine that McAuliffe encouraging the barely-tolerated image of himself as a national schmoozy Democrat with a bunch of sleezy connections, rather than a true Virginia politician well acquainted with local concerns, is a great idea — but evidently he thinks the juice will eventually be worth the squeeze.