As famous Yankee’s catcher Yogi Berra would say, “It’s déjà vu all over again.”
The year was 2009 and the Republic Party was limping. Democrats were in control of the House and Senate, and a dazzling young senator named Barack Obama had just stormed into the White House. But two governors races in the unlikeliest of states—Virginia, a state that went overwhelmingly for Obama in 2008, and New Jersey, which was thought to be an unwinnable, bluest-of-the-blue state—would begin to turn the tide.
The elections were seen as a referendum on Democrats’ leadership of the country. The economy, fresh off one of the worst recessions in the nation’s history, continued to stagnate. Too-big-to-fail was being enshrined, not eliminated, as a paradigm. Out of control spending was leading to historic debts and deficits. And health care reform was being jammed down America’s throat despite pluralities who said it would worsen their medical care and increase their prices.
Republicans cruised to victory in 2009 and gathered momentum for the historic 2010 landslide.
Now, four years later, does the political landscape look so different?
The economic “recovery” remains historically sluggish. Deficits have yet to be tamed as the growth of entitlements continues to threaten the future. And Obamacare—the law Americans disliked from the start—has proven to be an utter disaster, dramatically raising insurance premiums, forcing millions off of health care plans they like, and threatening an insurance death spiral that could destroy the private market.
The latest polls show the race is likely to come down to the wire. The most recent Quinnipiac University poll finds that Cuccinelli trails his Democrat opponent, Terry McAuliffe, by only 4 points, which is within the poll’s margin of error.
The poll shows that Cuccinelli is gathering momentum in the days leading up to Election Day. For the past few weeks, several polls of Virginians showed McAuliffe leading by a comfortable margin, even as high as 17 percent.
But the disastrous rollout of the president’s health care law has buoyed Cuccinelli, who is an ardent opponent of Obamacare and takes pride in being the first state attorney general to sue in an effort to stop the law.
“On Tuesday, you can decide with your vote to support the Obamacare Medicaid expansion with Terry McAuliffe, or you can oppose expanding Obamacare with the Medicaid expansion by voting for me,” Cuccinelli told a crowd at Shenandoah Valley Regional Airport on Sunday. “On Tuesday, we will send Washington a message: No more Obamacare in Virginia.”
In a desperate effort to stem the tide, McAuliffe and left-wing PACs are pouring money into the campaign. According to the latest report McAuliffe had raised $26.3 million, roughly 70 percent of which had come from groups outside the state. And that money was being used to buy up airtime, which was tilted in McAulifee’s favor by a 10-to-1 margin.
“They have money – we have momentum,” Cuccinelli responded.
And that momentum is being channeled into a groundswell of support, measured not in ad-buys, but in the number of doors that are knocked on, the number of phone calls being made, and the number of hands shook, questions answered and miles travelled.
Cuccinelli may be outspent, but College Republicans are helping to make sure he’s not outworked. Throughout the election season local chapters have been partnering with the campaign to host weekly phone banks on campus and to schedule “door knocks” to personally reach out to would-be voters. The College Republican National Committee has even gone up with an ad portraying McAuliffe as a “catfish” – someone who pretends to be something they are not to woo the unsuspecting or gullible.
A coordinated, grassroots effort, with the issues and the momentum on the Republicans’ side? That sounds like déjà vu all over again.