Jeff Schapiro of the Richmond Times-Dispatch joins 88.9 WCVE’s Craig Carper for this week’s political analysis. Topics include Ed Gillespie and Ralph Northam’s first debate match-up, how Trump continues to overshadow the Virginia campaign, and a recent interview with Eric Cantor.
CC: From WCVE News in Richmond, I’m Craig Carper. Joining me now from the Richmond Times-Dispatch is political columnist and WCVE’s political analyst, Jeff Schapiro. Jeff, good morning.
JS: Good morning to you Craig.
CC: Jeff, last Saturday the two men running for governor, Ed Gillespie and Ralph Northam, met for their first debate. Everyone is always watching for a gaff or a flub, and it didn’t seem like we saw one.
JS: Yes, the debate at the Homestead Saturday last was newsworthy because no one seemed to step in it, if you will. That may be a rich image given the early hour. I apologize for that. (laughing) The debate, of course, was sponsored by the Virginia Bar Association. This is a regular stop for statewide candidates. Now it was live-streamed. It was not carried on television, and I think that’s important, because had it been carried on television and had someone screwed up, we’d probably still be talking about it and writing about it six days on. But Gillespie did not want to talk about President Trump, and he didn’t particularly care to talk about healthcare, and Northam spent a lot of time talking about both and giving these very fuzzy answers about an issue on which he’s continued to be quite fuzzy, and that is whether he is for or against these twin natural gas pipelines that will cross the western part of the state.
CC: And in this off year, Virginia and New Jersey’s gubernatorial races are usually the main events, but this year external national issues, i.e., President Trump, continue to overshadow Virginia’s campaign.
JS: And of course with the Republicans who control the U.S. Senate struggling with a replacement for Obamacare, there are some, shall we say, PR opportunities for Democrats here in Virginia. A number of elected officials have been staging these news conferences all around the state, essentially to taunt Ed Gillespie for his refusal to take a public position on these various Republican plans. All of which, according to the numbers crunchers at CBO, would take health care from people. Now how many in Virginia is not clear. We do know that at least 400,000 Virginians would have coverage in this state had it gone along with Medicaid expansion. Then we had the President’s order by tweet that would ban transgender Americans from the military, even thousands on active duty – a story of great sensitivity in a defense-rich state like Virginia. Now the President’s splash has allowed Northam, he’s an Army veteran of the first Iraq war, to depict himself as an opponent of discrimination. Gillespie has said he doesn’t want any transgender soldiers, sailors, airmen, or marines who are on active duty being forced out of the service, but he’s deferring to the Pentagon to come up with some policy on whether the ranks in future should be closed to transgender men and women. And on Thursday, Gillespie tried again to change the subject. He was up in Loudon County, one of those important swing suburbs of Washington, D.C., and there he rolled out plans to control gang violence, plans to improve pay for police officers, plans to strengthen cyber security. By the way, Ralph Northam was talking about some Virginia specific issues as well. He says he wants to improve opportunities for disabled Virginians, and that includes expanding employment for the disabled by at least 20% by 2020. And one last note – Ralph Northam, who is busy trying to replenish his campaign treasury, having spent 8 million dollars on the primary, is watching his opponent go up on television spending a ton on three commercials, two of them largely biographic and the other focusing on jobs in the economy. And of course with paid advertising, Ed Gillespie can talk about what Ed Gillespie wants to talk about, and we know one subject he does not care to discuss is Donald Trump.
CC: And in an interview with former U.S. House majority congressman, Eric Cantor from Virginia’s 7th district, in Washingtonian magazine this week, the ex-congressman surprisingly takes a bit of responsibility for the current dysfunction in the U.S. House of Representatives.
JS: In this interview with Washingtonian magazine, Eric Cantor surprisingly takes some responsibility for what the congressional Republican caucus appears to have become, and that is this, you know, raucous collection of conservatives and badly outnumbered moderates, including Cantor, that it is not delivering and that includes not delivering on the promised repeal of Obamacare. Cantor says that even though the Republicans have had these majorities in the House and Senate for seven years, they really don’t control congress because of this kind of raucous bunch that they seem to have become. But Cantor also suggests that Republicans pandered to their base on the repeal of the Affordable Care Act by never telling them the full story, and that had they, this might have prevented those Republican voters from turning out. His words, “If you’ve got that anger working for you, you’re gonna let it be.”
CC: And Congressman Dave Brat who defeated Cantor in 2014, an example of the seemingly unproductive anger-driven Republican caucus to which Cantor refers, mentioned an idea which may strike some Virginians as peculiar.
JS: Appearing on CNN Thursday, by the way that was Brat’s 53 birthday, the Congressman said it’s the media’s fault that Trump is posting all of these nasty tweets about the Attorney General, Jeff Sessions. Brat, by the way would like Sessions to stay on as Attorney General and says that Sessions was correct to disqualify himself from the Russia investigation, but he got the ball rolling on this notion that somehow the press is responsible for this, because he contends that he is, Brat, the press is needlessly obsessed with the Russia affair. And so that coverage, Brat claims, is forcing Trump’s hand and in Brat’s view it’s all because of “fake news.”
CC: Thanks to Jeff Schapiro, political columnist at the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Jeff, we will catch up again next week.
JS: Good weekend to you.