Back nearly a decade ago during the battle-royale over the Columbia Pike streetcar, a prescient elected official – and streetcar supporter – proffered this explanation why the transit concept was finding more naysayers than boosters.
“It’s because it takes us [supporters] 17 minutes to explain our position, and it takes opponents just 17 seconds to explain theirs,” he said.
To bring us back to the present day, one does wonder what’s going on in the brain trust that is trying to elect Republican Glenn Youngkin governor.
Starting late last week, we in the media were promised a (drum roll please) major announcement by the candidate this Monday.
And what was this major announcement? A series of relatively run-of-the-mill public-policy positions that any consultant could (and probably did) think up, all tied together in a press release so long that nobody was going to spend the time to go through it all.
How’d it all go over? “Swing and a miss” would be my analysis. In politics, after all, if you are explaining, you are losing … and when you promise something major, you had better deliver something major.
Even the otherwise hapless Jim Gilmore understood that to connect with voters, you have to keep it simple and focused. What was the theme of his long-ago, successful campaign for governor? “No Car Tax.” It worked to get him elected, and while he didn’t exactly succeed in getting the tax eliminated, it did get it reduced.
(It was about the one big success for a governor who, I am old enough to remember, actually had some presidential delusions, er, aspirations. As Shakespeare’s Puck would put it: “Lord, what fools these mortals be…”)
In spite of the Youngkin team’s seeming inability to pull the campaign messaging together, there is still the chance this might be competitive. Polls say things are close, which should tell you not everybody is eager for Terry McAuliffe 2.0 in the Governor’s Mansion. And if the Biden administration continues on its confused and muddled path in coming weeks, that can only benefit the GOP, too.
But that’s a bit of a wing and a prayer to be basing one’s campaign on. Let’s hope Youngkin can do better, as we the voters deserve both candidates offering clear, coherent priorities between now and Nov. 2.
- Scott McCaffrey