It’s Clearly All About the Economy

Once the Massachusetts special election to fill John Kerry’s Senate seat is over, the main focus of true political junkies will be on Virginia’s highly competitive off-year elections. So this weekend’s Republican State Convention in the Commonwealth, which nominates statewide candidates for the general election (a primary might have given too much influence to “squishes”), was of unusual interest.

Joining the pre-ordained gubernatorial nominee, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, the fiery Tea Person, at the top of the ticket was a novice candidate who wowed the delegates with “near-apocalyptic” rhetoric: African-American minister E. W. Jackson. The good reverend bishop is best known for being an abundant contributor to the “Democratic plantation” meme, per this video he made to convince black voters to switch to the GOP in 2012:

Aside from the rather arresting assertion that Planned Parenthood is worse than the KKK, the main theme of Jackson’s video is that the “Democrat Party” represents a “rebellion against God.”

But hey, Virginia Republicans are all “about” jobs and economic policy, according to some hilarious spin coming out of the state convention (per Politico‘s Alexander Burns):

A Jackson adviser did not respond to emails seeking comment. Republican Party of Virginia spokesman Garren Shipley defended the candidate as a person of faith and predicted the 2013 elections would not hinge on social issues.

“It is no secret that E.W. Jackson has deeply held Christian conservative beliefs. But the race for lieutenant governor will be fought on economic ground as opposed to social policy. In the weeks and months ahead, Jackson will focus on ideas that produce more quality jobs for Virginians and make life easier for families and workers,” Shipley said in an email.

Yeah, that’s why he won the nomination. And improving Virginia’s economy was clearly the dominant theme of the whole state GOP clambake, as another Politico reporter, Jonathan Martin, noted:

It was as if the candidates for lieutenant governor and attorney general, nine all told, were running for president and not second-tier state offices. One after the next, they won applause for searing attacks over the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of conservative groups, the Department of Justice’s monitoring of the Associated Press’s phone records and the tragedy at the Benghazi consulate in Libya.

Much more than on attacks on McAuliffe or state issues, the Republican audience responded with great enthusiasm to the jeremiads against Obama and affirmations of fealty toward gun rights and the Constitution generally.

It’s appropriate that the third spot on the statewide ticket, the nomination to succeed Cooch as Attorney General, went to state senator Mark Obenshain, son of Richard Obenshain, who initiated the conservative ideological takeover of the Virginia GOP back in the 1970s (he died in a plane crash in 1978 after winning the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate).

It will be quite the spectacle listening to the members of this ticket claiming “social issues” and “national issues” don’t really matter this year. Those delegates in Richmond knew better.

UPDATE: BuzzFeed’s Andrew Kaczynski has posted a ten-pack of incendiary statements by Bishop Jackson on homosexuality. If anyone can scare up ten statements by the Bishop on job creation, I’d like to see them.

UPDATE II: Mark Obenshain may not have the culture-war notoriety of his running-mates, but he’s no piker: ThinkProgress’ Ian Millhiser reports that Obenshain sponsored a bill in 2009 requiring women to report all miscarriages (unless a doctor was present) to the police within 24 hours or face a jail term. This must be an example of what Obenshain’s campaign website means with this statement: “For Mark Obenshain, there can be no higher calling than to defend the liberties of all Virginians.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.