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April 23, 2013 12:57 PM Over the Edge With Cooch

By Ed Kilgore

Yesterday I wrote that the earliest stirrings about the GOP presidential nomination contest in 2016 seemed to signal a field even more extreme than the 2012 circus cast, what with Ted Cruz and Rand Paul all but running already and Marco Rubio being treated as a “moderate. ” But now it gets worse: according to a David Catanese article at TNR, the Republican nominee for Governor of Virginia already has his own sites on 2016, and could be ideologically dressed for success:

[W]hen Ken Cuccinelli wakes up in the morning, he looks in the mirror and sees a man on the road to the White House—or at least a candidate of presidential timber. Though he’s more likely looking toward 2020, after he’s (theoretically) completed his first term as governor, it’s not inconceivable that he’s arming himself for the ideological gunfight that’s sure to break out in the 2016 Republican primary.
If indeed he’s able to dispatch former Democratic National Committee chairman and uber-fundraiser Terry McAuliffe just as Republicans are enduring a wrenching period of soul-searching about their identity, his timing could be impeccable. He has the social conservative street cred of Rick Santorum, speaks the libertarian language of Rand Paul, and brandishes the constitutional acumen of Ted Cruz. And if he captures the governorship, odds are he’ll have a longer list of tangible achievements in two years than Marco Rubio racks up in five.

This isn’t just Catanese idly speculating; Cooch is not only golden in Christian Right/Tea Party circles for his staunch defense of sodomy laws and legal assaults on Obamacare—he’s also been working the Iowa circuit.

Conservative Iowa radio talk show host Steve Deace, who has already had Cuccinelli on his program at least three times, said he first saw evidence of the attorney general’s ascent back in December 2011, when he served as a panelist on Mike Huckabee’s Fox News presidential forum…

“He is clearly a rising star in the conservative movement. He’s really liked by a lot of the right to work, Ron Paul, Rand Paul libertarian crowd. If he can bring the two camps (of conservatives and libertarians) together, you are a very viable national candidate in the Republican Party.”

Bob Vander Plaats, an influential social conservative who heads Iowa’s Family Leader, called himself a “big fan” of Cuccinelli’s and said he should definitely keep his 2016 options open. “Cuccinelli’s bold, he doesn’t back away from what he believes and I think people really appreciate that about him,” said Vander Plaats, who endorsed both Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee, the two previous winners of the Iowa caucus. “If a country calls, you’ve got to be ready to respond to that call.”
Last spring, Cuccinelli was the keynote speaker at the annual Iowa Republican Party gala and then later dined privately with Rep. Steve King, according to a Hawkeye State source. In 2010, he flew around the state to stump for the GOP’s attorney general candidate. Deace said the attention has paid dividends with the most dedicated conservative foot soldiers, whose affinity for Cuccinelli falls in a tier just below Huckabee and Santorum. “If you put a bunch of Iowa Republican activists in the room … just as many would know Ken Cuccinelli as Bobby Jindal,” he said.

Obviously vanquishing Terry McAuliffe this November would great burnish Cooch’s reputation, particularly since conservative media would like to have someone other than the semi-heretic Chris Christie to talk about before and after this off-year election day. Now it’s possible that articles like Catanese’s will force Cuccinelli to foreswear immediate presidential ambitions, or to aim for the vice-presidency (since Virginia remains a crucial state for Republicans). But in a political universe where people like Steve Deace and Bob Vander Plaats are a much bigger force than a lot of those who populate party “elite” circles and who may consider Cooch a bit of a joke, it’s hardly crazy to imagine him wowing wingnuts on the Pizza Ranch Circuit in Iowa. He’s a lot slicker than Rick Santorum, and unlike the Pennsylvanian, Cooch may still have some gas in the tank.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

Comments

  • internet tough guy on April 23, 2013 1:02 PM:

    "He’s really liked by a lot of the right to work, Ron Paul, Rand Paul libertarian crowd."

    Then they are not libertarians, even by Ron Paul's standards.

  • boatboy_srq on April 23, 2013 1:06 PM:

    a candidate of presidential timber

    Considering what a block of wood he's proven in Virginia, that's entirely appropriate. I think Catanese was aiming for timbre, but the spelling he used is far more accurate.

    He has the social conservative street cred of Rick Santorum, speaks the libertarian language of Rand Paul, and brandishes the constitutional acumen of Ted Cruz.

    Translation: he's a third-grade Catholic-schoolboy who's good with word salad and able to count to ten.

  • c u n d gulag on April 23, 2013 1:10 PM:

    Cooch, your country ain't gonna be calling you.

    But, maybe you should keep your phone off the hook, anyway.

  • Mimikatz on April 23, 2013 1:11 PM:

    The gods help us. Cuccinelli would be at home with Florence's Savonarola and one expects to see the Bonfire of the Vanities any day. How did half our populace come to reject the Enlightenment and decide to embrace ignorance, superstition and delusion? Is life really that frightening? And to embrace a god who requires hatred and (if they had their druthers) burning of heretics and gays?

    If there is a just god, global warming would seem to be her verdict on this particular experiment.

  • Ronald on April 23, 2013 1:24 PM:

    It won't matter who runs on the right in 2016. The election belongs to Ms. Clinton if she wants it. (oh please! oh please! oh please!)

  • Sgt. Gym Bunny on April 23, 2013 1:32 PM:

    And here we were thinking the Mighty Right fever blister would burst after November 2012...

    I don't know about you folks, but I don't know how long I can watch this steady parade of Looney Tunes from the GOP. They just keep crawling out the wood works. Something has really got to give. What does it take to get these yahoos to crawl back into their little dark holes???

  • Stetson Kennedy on April 23, 2013 1:45 PM:

    He has the social conservative street cred of Rick Santorum, speaks the libertarian language of Rand Paul, and brandishes the constitutional acumen of Ted Cruz.

    Yes, because when I think of libertarianism, the first thing I think of is telling consenting adults what they can and can't do in their own bedrooms.

    I would have said that Cooch has zero chance to be gov, no less prez, until I remembered that he was runnig against Terry McAuliffe. That said, he has about as much chance of winning the presidenccy as I do.

  • Anonymous on April 23, 2013 1:47 PM:

    "If he can bring the two camps (of conservatives and libertarians) together, you are a very viable national candidate in the Republican Party.”

    ah, therein lies the rub. with the old animosities (tribalism, gun fetishes, abortion) fading or lapsing into discredit and absurdity, what can cooch find to fire up the dimwits and yet appear to be semi-sane? remember, the last four republicans elected presidents only did so after pretending to be reasonable. that's not in his playbook.

  • ranchandsyrup on April 23, 2013 2:12 PM:

    His own sights set on 2016 instead of sites?

  • DCSusie on April 23, 2013 2:29 PM:

    I can only hope that O'Bambi agrees to hand over the mechanisms of his turnout machine to Virginia Dems so they can get a massive turnout in NOVA and crush the Cooch. McAuliffe's no prize, but O'Bambi should be able to understand that he does NOT want Cukoo-nelli on his doorstep for the last 3 years of his tenure.

  • Peter C on April 23, 2013 2:33 PM:

    " “Cuccinelli’s bold, he doesn’t back away from what he believes and I think people really appreciate that about him,” said Vander Plaats, "

    ... neither did Mourdock. I think the Republicans should pick him.

    Republicans really shouldn't hide their light under a bushel.

  • exlibra on April 23, 2013 5:18 PM:

    Though he’s more likely looking toward 2020, after he’s (theoretically) completed his first term as governor,[...] -- David Catanese

    And there goes Catanese's cred as a political maven. "First term"? Hello? In Virginia, we have very strict term limits; it's one term and out. No second term possible (or not consecutively).

    I can only hope that O'Bambi agrees to hand over the mechanisms of his turnout machine to Virginia Dems so they can get a massive turnout in NOVA and crush the Cooch. -- DCSusie, @2:29 PM

    O'Bambi, huh? My understanding is that OFA has already passed on its database, but how much good it's gonna do is anybody's guess.

    1) NOVA by itself is not enough to counterbalance the rest of the state, and down south here (I'm in southwestern VA; blue town, but the county redder than a turkey's wattle), we're having our hands full just holding our noses long enough to vote for McAuliffe; not sure how many of us will have the spirit necessary to go door to door and such, no matter how much we shudder at the idea of the Cuckoo as the Gov.

    2) Little Bobby McD has just recently signed new election laws, which will make it much, much harder for a lot of Democrats to vote. I'm guessing that the reason there's been no pushback from DOJ so far (we're one of those Southern states which need a preclearance before messing with voter access. We got it to the'12 changes, because the requirements actually *expanded* the possible pool of voters. This time, it's the opposite) is that the upcoming election is the state one, not federal. And one wonders what'll happen next year, when there will be some federal office elections (Congressional). But I guess McAuliffe will explain it all. He's giving a lecture on VA Election Law tonight at 6PM, at the Law School of our U.

  • gyrfalcon on April 24, 2013 1:01 AM:

    Oh, please, Bring Him On.