Democrat National Committee chairman

Dr. Bob Holsworth Interview, Part 1

Below is the first part of a two part interview with nationally known political scientist Dr. Bob Holsworth, a regular commentator on Virginia and national politics. His articles and commentary can be read in publications and on the Internet, and heard on television and radio. He is a frequent speaker to numerous organizations, heads a consultancy, and is the editor of the widely read blog, Virginia Tomorrow. Today, we talk about the current session of the General Assembly and touch on national politics. Dr. Holsworth, it's a great honor to have you answer some questions on our blog about the General Assembly and Virginia politics in general. So, thank you very much for participating in this interview. We greatly appreciate your valuable time and look forward to your insights and are big fans of your blog, Virginia Tomorrow. Are you ready for some questions?

Dr. Bob Holsworth: Thanks very much for the opportunity to be on your site.

FamilyFoundationBlog: Has anything surprised you about this session of the General Assembly? Has the Republican sweep and increased House of Delegates majority created a visible difference or is it too early to tell (i.e., waiting for the budget)?

Dr. Holsworth: Certainly, the Republican sweep in the House has made it even easier for the GOP to control the legislative outcomes in that chamber. But the Democratic control of the Senate can still pose substantial hurdles for the Governor and the House GOP. I was surprised that five Democrats in the Senate supported the Health Care Freedom legislation, symbolically repudiating former Governor Kaine and President Obama. All of these Democrats are in districts where the GOP could field competitive challengers and this tells you just how concerned Democrats have become about the impact of the national mood here in Virginia. At the same time, Senate Dems have summarily dismissed part of the McDonnell agenda such as dedicating royalties for off-shore drilling to transportation and changing the budget cycle. What will happen with the overall budget is still up in the air as Senate Dems actually disagree if they should present a budget that includes some of the tax increases in (former) Governor Kaine's recommended document or acknowledge the political reality that there will be no major tax increases and present a budget accordingly, even if it inconsistent with what they would really want to propose.

FamilyFoundationBlog: Governor Bob McDonnell ran on a jobs-creation platform and de-emphasized social issues. But social issues do play a role in the budget. Do you think he will go so far as to de-fund Planned Parenthood?

Dr. Holsworth: I think that you have phrased the question well. Some folks have said that McDonnell ran as a "moderate." My sense is that he ran as an economic conservative and gave less priority in the campaign to his social conservatism. I fully expect that McDonnell will sign almost all bills with a "social conservative" orientation that emerge from the legislative process. What's not entirely clear is how far his own proposals will move in this direction. He obviously made a symbolic change when he removed sexual orientation from the non-discrimination executive order with respect to state government workers. The question of whether he'll propose a budget amendment to de-fund panned parenthood will be seen by many of his supporters as a test of whether he will implement the values of social conservatism in the budget. If he does, there will be a substantial fight in the Senate and the media will surely portray it as a switch from the "moderation" of the campaign. If he doesn't, he'll disappoint a segment of his core supporters.

FamilyFoundationBlog: If Governor McDonnell proposes a host of "fees" instead of taxes to close the budget gap, how will that affect his support on the right? creation

Dr. Holsworth: If McDonnell is perceived as simply playing semantics with taxes, it will harm him not only with the right, but with many independents as well. He was very clear during the election about his belief that revenue increases should primarily come from economic growth and I would be very surprised if he has a post-election conversion to a different point of view, especially in this political environment.

FamilyFoundationBlog: Governor McDonnell is getting a lot of positive attention right now — giving the GOP response to the State of the Union, doing several national interviews, even one for Newt Gingrich's newsletter. Does he runs the risk of raising his own expectations?

Dr. Holsworth: I think of the smartest moves the new Governor made was to cancel his national interviews the day after his SOTU response. Virginians have made it clear that his first priority as Governor should be the Commonwealth and, in the long run, McDonnell's national stature will be most enhanced by having a strong approval rating in-state.

FamilyFoundationBlog: What chances do you give of real reforms this or next year in areas of budgeting and in recalculating SOQ spending?

Dr. Holsworth: The Senate has already rejected a key McDonnell proposal on changing the two year budget cycle. Recalculating SOQ spending has been an issue that many House Republicans have pointed to over the last few years as a reform necessary to rein in future budget increases. We've seen some willingness from both parties to look at items such as staffing ratios regarding non-instructional personnel. If there ever would be a time where the entire SOQ calculation would be readjusted, it would be in the kind of fiscal environment we have now. But polls show that schools remain extremely high on the public's priority list. In aggregate, school groups (teachers, superintendents, school boards, and principals) are extraordinarily well organized and very politically effective. Moreover, Virginia schools overall seem to perform extremely well — just this week, we ranked third in the nation in AP testing. I believe that the effort for major permanent structural changes in school funding will have substantial hurdles to overcome.

FamilyFoundationBlog: What are your thoughts on former Governor Doug Wilder calling for Tim Kaine's removal as Democrat National Committee chairman?

Dr. Holsworth: Former Governor Wilder noted that he had supported Tim Kaine for Vice-President, but did not feel that the DNC Chair was the best fit for his talents and skills. My guess is that there are a number of Democratic activists who are more comfortable with the sharp edges of a Howard Dean than the more cerebral approach to the position of Tim Kaine. The proof, of course, will be in the November pudding. Kaine will succeed if Democrats do far better than expected. But if November is a Democratic debacle, Kaine will be fingered for part of the blame.

Be sure to check back with us tomorrow afternoon for part two of our interview with Dr. Bob Holsworth as we look at next year's Congressional elections in Virginia, Senator Jim Webb's prospects in 2012, and the Tea Party movement.

Deeds Not Hoping For Hope And Change

In the 1980s, when Virginia was an electoral lock for Republican presidential candidates, and when the GOP won the presidency three successive terms, Virginia Republicans weren't nearly as successful. In fact, they lost three gubernatorial elections on the trot. One rhetorical tactic the GOP tried during those campaigns was to tie the Democrat to the rampant liberalism personified by big spenders, culture relativists, moral equivalency types and foreign policy weaklings such as Tip O'Neil, Patsy Schroder, Teddy Kennedy, Jim Wright, Tom Harkin and the whole motley crew.

The Dems here inevitably replied that "Virginia Democrats are different" and Chuck Robb, Gerry Baliles and Doug Wilder certainly lent that persona, if not actual substance, and the public seemed happy enough with them. All of which has come full reverse cycle in this year's campaign. That is to say, Democrat gubernatorial candidate Creigh Deeds won't say where he stands on what the "D.C. Democrats" are doing. Those are national issues he says, although a governor must be prepared to defend against federal the encroachment that inhibits his state's right of self government and to be a laboratory of innovation.

But Senator Deeds won't even say whether he supports or opposes "cap and trade" which would close the largest employer in his senate district! He won't comment, either, on socialized medicine, card check,  government control of the Internet and radio, or mandated abortion on demand, all of which are, or have been, put forth by the Obama administration and its uber-liberal allies in Congress.

But waaaaaaaaaaaaaaait just one minute!


He will comment on former President George W. Bush. That's right, Senator Deeds has new radio and television ads attacking the former president. So, who's he running against? Oh, and by the way, where's the mention of Governor Tim Kaine in those ads? Until a few months ago — when the governor's popularity began to plunge — Senator Deeds was fond of saying that he would continue the Kaine model. (Being Democrat National Committee chairman kinda debunks the whole "bi-partisan" thing.)

So, apparently, not even state issues are on the Deeds itinerary. Let's see: Senator Deeds won't talk about the last four years in Virginia and he won't talk about the last eight months in Washington. Guess that "Hope and Change" ain't working to well for him, either.

BREAKING NEWS: McDonnell, Bolling, Cuccinelli All With Huge Leads In WDBJ-TV/SurveyUSA Poll

A just released SurveyUSA poll for Roanoke CBS television affiliate WDBJ-TV/7 has all three Republican statewide candidates up by double digits. Gubernatorial candidate, former Attorney General Bob McDonnell leads Democrat Creigh Deeds, a senator from Bath County, by 55 percent to 40 percent.

Incumbent Lt. Governor Bill Bolling, running for re-election, leads his Democrat opponent, former Finance Secretary Jody Wagner, 54 percent to 42 percent.

Attorney General candidate Ken Cuccinelli, a senator from Fairfax County, leads Democrat Steve Shannon, a delegate from Fairfax, 53 percent to 42 percent.

The poll asked 526 voters, "If the election for (office) were today, who would you vote for . . . ?" with the names rotated each question and with the candidates' party identification preceding their names. There is a margin of error of 4.3 percent for the first two, and 4.4 percent for the AG race.

One thing comes quickly to mind: This early in a campaign, normally there are much more undecided voters, especially when choosing between two names with whom they may or may not be familiar. The fact that SurveyUSA used each candidate's party label may be the reason for the high positive numbers for the GOP candidates given the consistent downward plunge in the favorable ratings of President Barack Obama, for his government takeover schemes in manufacturing and finance, and now in health care; as well as Governor Tim Kaine's unpopularity for his job sharing as Democrat National Committee chairman, Virginia's constant incorrect budget revenue forecasts, and the state's IT contract controversy with Northrup Grumman.

Here's more analysis from Eric Kleefeld at Talking Points Memo. According to the poll's internals, 14 percent of those who voted for Mr. Obama last year now say they will vote for McDonnell, while 9 percent who voted for Republican Senator John McCain last November will vote for Deeds. SurveyUSA last polled the gubernatorial race after Deeds' Democrat primary victory in early June. At that point, McDonnell led by 47 percent to 43 percent.

Yesterday's News

There was barely enough time yesterday to post Thursday's News Stand, so I omitted the commentary. However, a few of the articles merit mention and further comment. Foremost was the Richmond Times-Dispatch article that quoted our president, Victoria Cobb, about the incredibly important ruling from the U.S. 4th  Circuit Court of Appeals that upheld Virginia's law banning partial birth infanticide. The Washington Post and Daily Press also reported on this most significant judicial decision.

The court's 6-5 vote puts into focus the maxim that elections matter. The 4th Circuit once was the country's most reliably conservative (i.e., constitutionally sound) court. But a retirement or two, a feel good appointment of liberal Judge Roger Gregory by President George W. Bush in the first days of his presidency (when he was all about "reaching out") — and enthusiastically supported by then-Senator George Allen — followed by his inability to overcome a liberal Senate blockade of subsequent appointments, has made for a closely divided court. Think President Obama will nominate a conservative to this court? Not a chance — and he will have plenty of them. The court has a few vacancies.

The one confirmation to the 4th Circuit won by President Bush was that of Judge Steven Agee. A former delegate and Virginia Supreme Court Justice, who once ran for the Republican nomination for attorney general as a "moderate," he was a compromise choice of Democrat Senator Jim Webb and President Bush after his original choices were shot down by the new Democrat majority in 2007. Thankfully, Judge Agee voted in the majority.

Here's the breakdown of the vote (click here for the opinions):

Majority: Judge Niemeyer, who wrote the opinion, in which Chief Judge Williams and Judges Wilkinson, Shedd, Duncan, and Agee joined. Judge Wilkinson wrote a separate concurring opinion (see exerpt here).

Minority: Judge Michael, who wrote the dissent, in which Judges Motz, Traxler, King, and Gregory joined.

In other news, a political shocker: Delegate Kristin Amundson (D-44, Fairfax) surprised everyone with a post-re-nomination withdrawal. Even though the 44th usually goes blue, Republican Jay McConnville is proving to be a solid candidate. Furthermore, a lefty independent is in the mix. With its success in recent Northern Virginia special elections, could this be a surprise GOP pickup?

Finally, the Washington Post, of all papers, has followed up on Republican complaints about Governor Tim Kaine's lack of travel and expenses transparency while working his second job as Democrat National Committee Chairman. While he initially said he would only perform those duties on nights and weekends, the Post uncovered that seven of nine days he has travelled, and reported, are weekdays. The governor also previously said anyone who wants to know where he's been only has to ask. People have, through FOIA requests, and no answers are forthcoming. Also, he now says the DNC will pick up the costs of his security detail. But why were we taxpayers ever paying for these political trips?

News Conference Tomorrow On Poverty: Is It The Ecomomy Or The Family?

Tomorrow at 11:00 a.m. in the House Briefing Room, a coalition of organizations and individuals, including lawmakers, economists, academics, ministers, First Things of Greater Richmond and The Family Foundation, will hold a news conference on a new initiative on poverty and families. Among the individuals participating are Bishop E.W. Jackson, Sr. and Delegate Bill Janis (R-56, Henrico). Last month, Governor Tim Kaine created the Poverty Reduction Task Force commission (see Richmond Times-Dispatch) to look into the causes of poverty in Virginia. Sounds altruistic except that he seemed to speak not as governor but as Democrat National Committee chairman, and immediately blamed House Republicans for every ill from The Great Plague on.

That might be expected no matter who is governor or no matter how many extra jobs he has. However, incredibly missing was an acknowledgment of how broken families, single-parent households and the lack of mothers and fathers play a disproportionate role in creating poverty and dead-end lives. Put aside any economic, budgetary, tax or regulatory argument, no amount of extra unemployment insurance to part-time workers (as the governor lambasted Republicans for refusing to grant) will do anything to remedy the broken family and illegitimacy. 

Yesterday, at the Tuesday Morning Group Coalition meeting, Delegate Janis laid out compelling statistics. For example, in 1970, there were 200 million people living in the United States and there were 25 million two-parent families. Now there are 300 million living here and still there are 25 million two-parent families. In 1970, there were 37 million houses with three bedrooms or more. Today, there are 77 million, even though the number of two-parent families remains the same as in 1970. No wonder there was a housing bubble — single parents have enough challenges without trying to pay for a house much too large on one income. Delegate Janis lays out his entire case in this June 7 Times-Dispatch  op-ed.

So, is poverty an economic problem or a family problem? As much as economists and sociologists disagree with themselves, much less each other, a wide assortment will be present tomorrow in person or in citation who agree that strengthening the family must be the basis for any poverty reduction program. As Delegate Janis said, it doesn't take a village, Hillary, it takes a dad.

This coalition hopes to have a sincere partnership with the governor in shaping meaningful, non-partisan solutions to the related increases of poverty and broken families. Whether he and his commission are up to it may indicate whether Governor Kaine is more interested in lasting solutions for this serious problem or in concocting political blame on his opponents over a difference in a single, fleeting policy issue.