Although only in an "exploratory" stage, make no mistake: Top Clintonista Terry McAuliffe is running to be the commonwealth's next governor, just as we predicted in September (see here). Before all the ballots could be counted from the just completed election, he announced a tour of Virginia to meet and listen to voters (or just to learn town and county names and locations, thinks the cynic). However, based on who he is lining up as campaign staff, he's fully committed to go. According to Wednesday's Richmond Times-Dispatch, he has secured the services and/or commitments of Mike Henry, who ran Mark Warner's winning U.S. Senate campaign and Governor Tim Kaine's2005 gubernatorial race; Jenny Nadicksbernd, a fundraiser for Warner and Kaine; and communications veteran Mo Elleithee. Other consultants under consideration for polling and advertising all have long-time Virginia Democrat connections.

McAuliffe will face Senator Creigh Deeds (D-25, Bath) and Delegate Brian Moran (D-46, Alexandria) in a June primary. While there is plenty of material to use against McAuliffe, such as his ties to Teamsters Union corruption (see Counterpunch, here) and his massive stock profit while Global Crossing went bankrupt (Enron, before Enron), Dem supporters of the two legislators may be queuing up another line of attack: Not only is he a come-here with no experience in Virginia government, he flirted with running for governor once before — in Florida. The degree of the nastiness of the Democrat campaign may go a long way in determining the success of presumptive GOP gubernatorial nominee, Attorney General Bob McDonnell, his ticket mates and House candidates.