Meanwhile, Down in Richmond….

Eric Cantor is a pretty big cheese in Virginia Republican politics, right? So you have to figure that while he was making all those billing and cooing noises in Washington yesterday about bipartisanship, he was probably aware his buddies in Richmond were in the midst of pulling off a vicious partisan stunt that would have embarrassed Boss Tweed. In case you missed it, here’s TPM’s Evan McMorris-Santoro with the story:

The state Senate is split 20-20 between Republicans and Democrats. On Monday, while state Sen. Henry Marsh (D) — a 79-year-old civil rights veteran — was reportedly in Washington to attend President Obama’s second inaugural, GOP senators forced through a mid-term redistricting plan that Democrats say will make it easier for Republicans to gain a majority.

With Marsh’s absence, Senate Republicans in Richmond had one more vote than Senate Democrats and could push the measure through. The new redistricting map revises the districts created under the 2011 map and would take effect before the next state Senate elections in Virginia and would redraw district lines to maximize the number of safe GOP seats.

Since the Virginia House and the governorship are controlled by Republicans, the “dirty trick” is likely to be consummated, though Gov. Bob McDonnell–who is what passes for a moderate in Virginia GOP politics these days–claims he knew nothing about it and isn’t promising to sign the new plan.

Two other aspects of the gambit deserve particular scorn: the Republican sponsor of the re-redistricting plan claims he was just trying to create a new African-American district (which is why he waited until one of the legislature’s most prominent African-Americans was away before unveiling the bill, right?). And after the vote, the Virginia House adjourned “in memory of General Stonewall T. Jackson” (part of Virginia’s complex system for dealing with the conjunction of MLK, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson holidays).

No wonder these people have brushed aside McDonnell’s lieutenant-governor and chosen to run Ken Cuccinelli for governor this year.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.