Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Jaquith looks at 1993 and wonders about 2006

In “Allen vs. Terry: History repeats itself,” Waldo Jaquith spotlights key moments in the fizzling of Mary Sue Terry’s campaign in 1993, a gubernatorial race that George Allen won in spite of being way behind in summertime polls:
“...Allen had been nominated at the Republicans’ June 4-5 convention in Richmond, fresh off of losing his House seat post-redistricting. The conservative Richmond Times Dispatch has criticized the Republican ticket as “the most conservative ticket in memory,” with UVa political scientist Larry Sabato saying it was evidence that Virginia Republicans ‘would rather be right than govern.’ Terry has $2.3M in the bank. Allen has nothing.”
Jaquith does a good job of showing how that year’s unraveling of a well-financed favorite could be providing a bit of foreshadowing for the 2006 Virginia senatorial race. Waldo’s scenario shows how it all really came undone for Terry in August, a month that is frequently seen as a timeout from politics by the lazy or naive. What his look at 1993 neglects is the quirky role writer Patricia Cornwell played in torpedoing Terry’s political career.

In early 1993 it was widely rumored that Cornwell -- who lived in Richmond then -- and Attorney General Terry had a special sort of friendship. Cornwell, looking nearly punk in her black leather, made a few rather news-making appearances, partying hardy and extolling the merits of her friend.

Then, for whatever reason, the suddenly popular crime novelist suddenly turned against Terry over that summer. Not only did Cornwell make it quite public that she and Terry were no longer on the same page, in the fall Cornwell actually produced TV ads telling all to vote for Allen. She faced the camera and said it was her own money she was spending to defeat her former Democratic friend. Cornwell had turned Republican, in the worst way.

How much that flight of strange ads contributed to Terry’s downfall can be debated. But there is no debating that it had a noticeable effect on gossip at the time. Now, given Waldo’s linking of 1993 to 2006, where’s this year’s Cornwell?

Will a well-known Republican -- waiting in the wings to make a move -- turn on George Allen in the next month, or so? That would be almost eerie, if it happened. Once momentum is lost, as Allen knows from 1993, sometimes it’s impossible to get it back. If Allen‘s numbers continue to sink, in spite of his fundraising advantage, will Allen’s fair-weather friends start to push away from him?

Art: by F.T. Rea (1994, "Campaign Inkbites")


Vivian J. Paige said...

Funny. I have no recollection of the Patricia Cornwell ads. But I do remember Allen saying something to the effect that the governor's mansion was a place for a man and his family.

Waldo Jaquith said...

That is fascinating, Terry -- I knew nothing about Cornwell.

Matt Megas said...

I heard that Brent Scowcroft is endorsing Webb. He was national security advisor for Bush I, and worked in the Nixon, Ford, and both Bush administrations.

Howling Latina said...

Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf would be an ideal endorser.

He warned the nation against going into Iraq and I'm sure he's friends with Webb.

Kathy said...

Wow - incredible artwork there :)

Kathy said...

Oops - posted too soon.. one of the book covers from that period captures the "leather" look.

Maybe B&N has it.

kathy said...

I remember those Cornwall ads, and a newspaper article or Style weekly article that implied that Cornwall and friends were, I dunno, dancing really close or something at a fundraiser and Terry distanced herself from Cornwall after that, and Allen's campaign swung into "vote for me, I'm not a lesbian" mode. Some remarks came from his campsign about Terry's "ringless fingers." Don't know why that phrase stuck with me all these years. It was all fairly ugly.
Just like Cornwall's books (which I quit reading after that bit of nastiness on her part). They always let me down at the end too.