Most endorsements of political candidates by newspapers are unmemorable. But when a newspaper refuses to endorse anyone, offering a scathing critique of the uninspiring choices instead, they can be.
That's the case in Virginia, where, for the first time in its history, the Richmond Times-Dispatch is not endorsing a candidate in the state's gubernatorial race.
"We cannot in good conscience endorse a candidate for governor," the newspaper said in a scathing editorial published Sunday. "The major-party candidates have earned the citizenry’s derision."
Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, the Republican nominee, "rigged the process for the Republican nomination when his minions changed the system from a primary to a convention, which they considered more likely to produce their desired outcome," the paper said. "The switch mocked Cuccinelli’s advertised fealty to first principles. The expression of raw power would have delighted sachems of Tammany Hall. Virginia does not welcome an in-your-face governor."
Democratic challenger Terry McAuliffe, on the other hand, "received the Democratic nomination by default. His bid for the 2009 nod failed miserably. A weak bench left him as the only one in 2013’s game. Republican gerrymandering contributed to this." And McAuliffe’s performance four years ago "offered glimpses of his persistent debilities," the Times-Dispatch said. "He lost the nomination in large part because he and fellow challenger Brian Moran spent the campaign spitting on each other."
The Libertarian candidate, Robert Sarvis, "has neither embarrassed himself nor insulted the commonwealth," but "lacks the experience the job demands."
So do Cuccinelli and McAuliffe, the paper said:
Cuccinelli may have performed the legal tasks of his office with professional competence, but his focus raises questions about his gubernatorial ambitions.As AG, he stressed things he did not have to, and, if he stayed in character, he would do the same as governor.
McAuliffe styles himself a businessman and entrepreneur. He inhabits the crossroads where the public and private sectors intersect and sometimes collide. His experience with GreenTech does not generate confidence. He located the plant in Mississippi, which is not known for its social enlightenment. The company has not lived up to expectations. If it eventually does, no credit will accrue to McAuliffe, for he has, he says, stepped away from it. He is not the reincarnation of Henry Ford. His ignorance of state government is laughable and makes Rick Perry, the notorious governor of Texas, look like a Founding Father.
While scathing, the Times-Dispatch editorial has nothing on the editor's note from New York Post owner Dorothy Schiff published on the eve of the 1958 gubernatorial election.
"Gov. [Averell] Harriman's recent snide insinuation that Nelson Rockefeller is pro-Arab and anti-Israel should not be condoned by any fair-minded person," Schiff wrote, withdrawing the paper's earlier endorsement of the incumbent. "He should be punished by the voters. If you agree with me, do not vote for Averell Harriman tomorrow." (Rockefeller won.)
Meanwhile, McAuliffe, co-chairman of Bill Clinton's 1996 presidential re-election campaign and Hillary Clinton's failed 2008 presidential campaign, is leveraging his ties with the Clintons in his campaign. On Saturday, Hillary Clinton made her first campaign appearance in nearly five years to stump for McAuliffe.
“There are times when none of us can sit on the sidelines,” Clinton said. “And right now, here in Virginia, is one of those times."
On Sunday, the McAuliffe campaign announced Bill Clinton hit the trail with McAuliffe on Oct. 27 for a three-day tour around Virginia.