VIRGINIA

Terry McAuliffe's schmoozing for naught -- at least for now

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(WJLA) – Well, so much for that.

New Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe did his flesh-pressing best the past several weeks during bipartisan, after-hours soirees/shoot-the-breeze sessions at the executive mansion. He had the bar re-stocked with better spirits at his own expense, urged old-fashioned backroom haggling and more or less openly played his cards as the get-things-done deal maker he was while chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

And for all that. . .

No deal.

The General Assembly wound up its two-month session with no budget and no agreement on Medicaid expansion, with McAuliffe calling for a special session in two weeks. The GOP-dominated House of Delegates was determined not to be deterred, and so it went.

So much for schmoozing.

“Schmoozing,” says University of Mary Washington political scientist Stephen Farnsworth, “is a useful strategy when you have some people who could be persuaded.”

Adds Virginia Tech’s Charles Walcott, presidential historian and political observer: “McAuliffe has done what he can, from schmoozing to trying to rally the public. If anything, this demonstrates the limitations on executive leadership of the legislature.”

And there’s this from Larry Sabato, head of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics:

“On the whole, it is a good thing to reach out, entertain the legislators, get to know them,” he says. “Ask Mark Warner; he used the mansion well to get what he wanted from the General Assembly. But positions and party lines have hardened since then.

 “McAuliffe is doing what Obama has been criticized for not doing, yet I doubt it yields very many additional votes on the big-ticket items.”

President Obama indeed has taken hits for not doing what some of his predecessors did, such the old-school wheelings and dealings of House Speaker Tip O’Neill and President Ronald Reagan, or Newt Gingrich and Bill Clinton.

Such tactics, though, are “over-rated,” says Mark Rozell, Acting Dean and Professor of Public Policy at George Mason University.

“What worked for Tip and Reagan doesn't work in an era of intensely polarized parties where "compromise" is a dirty word,” Rozell says. “That is the sad reality of the current state of politics, both nationally and at the state level here. The political culture right now seems to celebrate the defeat and surrender of one's opponents, rather than working out reasonable solutions with them.”

Adds Farnsworth: “Reagan and Tip could work together because there were conservative Democrats who were tempted to go along with Reagan and they both knew that. Neither one of them wanted to stop the government, like so many Republican conservatives do today.”

Walcott points out that these things work both ways, and that while schmoozing sounds nice, reality is reality.

“The powers of governors vary from state to state,” he says, “(and) even in Virginia, where the governor has considerable power, if a determined majority (usually of the opposite party) wants to thwart him, he will be thwarted.”

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