The FBI investigation of Terry McAuliffe’s campaign donations is already having an effect on the governor’s activities and public perception. T-Mac was scheduled to appear at a fundraiser in Ohio for Ted Strickland, but has now decided to cancel this trip. McAuliffe said he “didn’t want any distractions” for his fellow Democrat. We’ve seen this before.
This is now the second consecutive time Virginia’s governor has been blacklisted by his fellow Party members who wanted to avoid any guilty-by-association labels. When Bob McDonnell was being investigated his lack of help with fundraising and messaging really hurt Republican candidates in 2013. A siting governor headlining events and attracting attention is a huge asset for raising money and helping with name ID for the whole Republican ticket. But instead of Republicans having that as ammunition in our arsenal, we had to keep our ticket at a distance from our own governor and it hurt us at the ballot box as we saw a Democratic sweep of the three statewide offices.
Maybe this cause and effect will repeat itself in 2017. Maybe T-Mac’s dirty tricks will be exposed and he is indicted, thus leaving the Democratic brand in turmoil and the GOP sweep statewide. Or this could also mean that T-Mac would have to step out, Lt. Governor Ralph Northam then repudiates T-Mac hard, and then Northam runs for governor as governor, giving him an incumbency advantage, to a certain degree, that is uncommon in Virginia. And for T-Mac the consequences are even more problematic. In addition to any criminal charges and resulting punishment, this investigation could drag on for a while and should Hillary Clinton win in November then this investigation could stop T-Mac from joining his close friend in the White House.
Terry McAuliffe has already become a “distraction.” When the same thing happened to Bob McDonnell the GOP struggled to adjust. The Democrats now find themselves in the same shoes. How they respond will be a significant element in 2016 and 2017 campaigns.