A longtime Arlington County Board member shakes up Virginia politics by announcing plans to step away. Uncertainty clouds the future for the chief of one of Maryland's treasured public school systems. And the field of candidates narrows in D.C.'s special elections looming in the spring.
Virginia gets the VIP treatment at the Democratic National Convention, while the District and Maryland watched President Barack Obama’s acceptance speech from the nosebleed seats. As the party wraps at the DNC, we talk with local Democrats and examine the week’s big winners and losers.
- Mark Plotkin Political Analyst, Fox 5 (WTTG)
- Brian Moran Chairman, Virginia Democratic Party; Former Member, Virginia House of Delegates (D-46th District, Alexandria)
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 in Washington and from the studios of the Groundcrew in Charlotte, N.C., welcome to "The Politics Hour" with Mark Plotkin? Must be a mistake here. Let me check. No. I have checked, and he is here sitting across from me in the studio. Mark Plotkin is our guest analyst today. He's an analyst for Fox 5 in Washington. He's also a former member activist in Democratic politics, who managed one of Eugene McCarthy's presidential campaigns. Mark Plotkin, welcome.
MR. MARK PLOTKINWell, it's really good to be here and to be helpful to you. I've heard that people listen to this show. I've run into three or four people who say they hear the show, and I'm just grateful to get some airtime. I do want to tell everybody that I rescued you from electronic obscurity when you were languishing in another...
NNAMDIOur guest analyst is Brian Moran.
NNAMDIHe -- our guest analyst is Brian Moran. He is the chairman of the Virginia Democratic Party. He joins us in the studios of the Groundcrew here in Charlotte. Brian Moran, thank you so much for joining us.
MR. BRIAN MORANAnd, Kojo, I do listen to your show religiously, and I know a lot of people who do listen to your show. And we enjoy it very much.
NNAMDIWhich is why we take you seriously. You, too, can call us at 800-433-8850 if you'd like to join this conversation. I think it's particularly significant that we're doing this from the Democratic National Convention, which ended last night because, Mark Plotkin, you have been to quite a few Democratic national conventions and conventions in general over the years. So you are in a way our resident convention historian. Exactly how many conventions have you've been to?
PLOTKINI have been -- this was my 11th Democratic convention. I've been to five Republican conventions, making that a total of 16. And in between these quadrennial events, I just hang around and just get ready and prepared. They are the highlight of my life, and I think what people don't realize is that if you're fortunate enough to get on the floor, it is unlike Washington, D.C. It is unfettered access.
PLOTKINYou can go up to anybody. The protocol and the culture is such that you'll be greeted warmly, and that you can talk. I just -- there was Mike Dukakis. Remember him? The 1988 candidate for president. And I just started talking to him. You couldn't have that same opportunity in any other event here.
NNAMDIBrian Moran, does that also apply to delegates? Is this an opportunity -- it seems a lot, like this is in a way like the Olympic village at the Olympics where delegates from one state get to...
NNAMDI...get to intermingle with delegates from another state?
MORANIt was exactly. Mark was kind enough to visit us, Virginia delegation, numerous times and interviewed a number of delegates from Virginia. Kojo, we had tremendous access as a Virginia delegation. We are right on the floor, only...
MORAN...one of seven states, all swing states, of course, the Illinois, the home state of the president, Delaware, the home state of the vice president, but we were joined there with Nevada and Iowa and Colorado. And so it was terrific for the Virginia delegation. And Mark and others, we had access to a number of people coming by and got to visit with lots of personalities. But I'm pleased to say I'm on air here today with my two favorite media personalities, and so I'm really honored.
MORANAfter a great week, this is -- could not be a better way to top off a wonderful week.
NNAMDIThank you kindly. There still is a lot of drama, particularly on the stage during these conventions, Mark, but not a great deal of suspense. I want to talk a little bit about conventions past that you were familiar with. 1964, Atlantic City, the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party with Fannie Lou Hamer trying to get seated at that convention.
PLOTKINYes. I was not there. I was -- how old was I? Seventeen years old. But that was the era which we should probably talk about far be it for me to guide the conversation. But that was gavel to gavel coverage. And if you listen to the C-SPAN radio tapes of Lyndon Johnson talking to people at Atlantic City where his -- where he was going to be nominated for president, obviously, after the assassination of President Kennedy, he was very concerned about the seating of the Mississippi delegation.
PLOTKINIt was an all-white delegation, and the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party was a biracial group of people, predominantly black. It ended up with a compromise, I think, only two black delegates were seated. But the credentials committee ruled them which delegation to seat. There was suspense. And more than suspense, Kojo, what I think is important and I know we'll get to D.C. where I am sort of tempering my wrath about that delegation and how they just fit in.
NNAMDIBut you digress.
PLOTKINYes. Well, let's talk about the way -- well, I just want to say that people came to conventions for principle, for ideas, for not just to be a cheerleading section but -- and obviously the abuses in racial segregation were enormous even in the Democratic Party, and there were battles and contests to assert your legitimacy. And now, these things are papered over, cooled off, and you're not really allowed to bring it up, although there was a deviation from the script on the moving of the embassy from -- to Jerusalem and making that the capital and...
MORANWell, the diversity, Kojo, was on display over this week. You know, I watched the Republican convention, and there was a lot of people who looked just like me. We -- this week in Charlotte, it was a very diverse group. And the Virginia delegation itself, 124 delegates, 60 of whom were African-American, 10 Hispanics, six of the LGBT community, very diverse. I mean, that is just strides made...
NNAMDIStark contrast between 1964 and now.
MORANTo '64, exactly. And the entire convention...
MORAN...looked that way, and it was on display, and we couldn't have been prouder. And we are all in this together. So when we had speakers from the podium saying that, it wasn't just rhetoric. It was action.
PLOTKINYes. Four of the -- four -- 40 percent of the delegates were nonwhite. But once again, I make the point that ideas or beefs, let's put that, or gripes are not allowed. I thought I was there at the politburo in someway, and that goes for both conventions. People that are running these conventions want them to be totally script and they -- and any raising of principle or conviction is considered non-unifying.
NNAMDIThe last convention that I attended which there was any degree of suspense was the 1980 convention at which Ted Kennedy was challenging the incumbent president, Jimmy Carter. You were working for Kennedy at the time.
PLOTKINYes. I was working for Kennedy, and, you know, that goes to who is going to be the nominee of the party. And if there are numbers there, then obviously you have more clout. The actual vote to nominate Carter -- renominate Carter was really over a procedural matter because that would have led to freeing of delegates. And I won't get into that. But he had about 1,000 delegates.
PLOTKINIt wasn't enough because he had contested the incumbent president in primaries and caucuses, and then what you have is Kennedy lost the vote but got to make a big speech in primetime, gave a big speech. And I'll never forget him, and he denied it. But if you were there, you'll remember he did everything he could -- Ted Kennedy did -- so that he wouldn't have the hands-up clasp thing. And Carter literally followed him around the stage...
NNAMDIUntil he got it.
PLOTKIN...trying to get that photo, and that photo never appeared.
NNAMDIIt never occurred. On to this convention here and the District of Columbia delegation.
NNAMDIThe District of Columbia delegation came to this convention with a lot of hopes in mind, hoping that they could still get the word statehood in the platform of the Democratic Party. They did not succeed in doing that. They hope that they would have a prominent position on the floor. That didn't happen. They had what some people characterized as nosebleed seats. They were hoping that Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton would be allowed to make a speech at the convention.
NNAMDIThat didn't happen. I got the impression that after all of this, the District of Columbia delegation was less angry than it was resigned to its place at this convention, even though it must be said that in the nominating process, the mayor of the District, Vincent Gray, made an appeal to the delegates here to support statehood and voting rights.
PLOTKINNo. He never made it.
NNAMDIOh, voting rights for the District.
PLOTKINAnd therein lies the problem. D.C. talked about -- I wrote a column and saying that there should have been a platform fight in The Post about two weeks ago over the word statehood. Just bear with me because I won't get into the esoteric. But I think people who are District residents and care about the District should realize the shaft they've got. And this is not really Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chairperson of the Democratic Party.
PLOTKINShe had nothing to do with it. She is a factotum, a functionary of the White House. The White House obviously didn't want the word statehood in the primary. And Cory Booker, who was the chairman of the platform committee, the mayor of Newark, I literally, I guess, verbally accosted him, he couldn't have been more gracious. He was being wheeled out and because he had turned his ankle.
PLOTKINAnd I said, why was statehood not in the platform? It had been in four times, the last time in 2000, the other two times it hadn't been in, in recent is because Eleanor Holmes Norton didn't try to put it in there. And then she got religion, and supposedly, she was trying to put it in. And Booker said that -- and I think this is an interesting choice of words. He said it was a contentious issue, as if same-sex marriage isn't contentious or abortion isn't contentious.
PLOTKINBut this word was contentious. A guy named John (word?), a operative who is the political director for Florida and New England, literally -- I thought he should work in the politburo himself -- tried to physically and this is the first time I'm telling this story from questioning Mayor Booker. That's how controlling they wanted, and that they felt this word was inflammatory.
PLOTKINIn terms of Eleanor Holmes Norton, if I were she, I would be very, very -- she spoken every time at every convention I've been in to, and she was relegated to waving on the stage with the other House delegates. This is directed not by the Democratic Party. This is a continuation of the unbelievable screwing -- there's no other way of saying it -- of D.C. by the Obama White House. This is a president who will not, will not give us a modicum of respect.
NNAMDIFinal question for you on this issue. We do have to move on. Is it fine for a D.C. delegate to make the distinction between supporting the president of the United States and expressing outrage at the same president for not giving...
PLOTKINYes. And I will just -- if you allow me and I'll try to be more succinct...
PLOTKIN...as possible. Is that Debbie Wasserman Schultz came on Monday, the chairperson of the party, and she was greeted with a standing ovation. This is the person that had -- is the functionary of really dismissing D.C. is important, even though it voted 92 percent for the president and 76 percent of the registered voters are Democrats.
PLOTKINAnd I'll repeat what Rev. Jackson said when he was at D.C. for the short period as the statehood Senate, when will it change, Rev. Jackson, when it rises to the level of personal insult. Obviously, the D.C. delegation didn't feel personally insulted.
NNAMDIMark Plotkin is our guest analyst. He's an analyst for Fox 5 in Washington, former activist in Democratic politics who managed one of Eugene McCarthy's presidential campaigns. Brian Moran is our guest. He is the chairman of the Virginia Democratic Party. Comments or questions, 800-433-8850. Brian Moran, we cruised around on the floor a little bit this week, and your seats, as we pointed out earlier, where the envy of most other states in the country.
NNAMDIThe Virginia delegation certainly held a VIP status. Former DNC Chair Terry McAuliffe said that's for a reason that if the Democratic Party holds Virginia this year, the president holds for reelection. Where do you think Virginia fits into the puzzle of the party's national strategy?
MORANWe're first and foremost. We feel -- I think it was one of our speakers over the weekend -- week said it is a great privilege but an enormous responsibility. The Virginia delegates are leaving here fired up and ready to go. We recognize just how important Virginia is and the importance of this election. And so we are returning to Virginia to make sure we return our 13 electoral votes for the president of the United States.
MORANAs I said, in providing -- during the roll call vote in providing the president our 118 delegates, you know, it has been a struggle in Virginia. I mean, we are indeed a purple state. It had been 44 long years since we had voted for a Democrat for president since 1964. And we turned Virginia blue in 2008 and provided 13 electoral votes for the president. We plan on doing that again, and we need to get to work.
MORANAnd I know a lot of work is going on the ground right now in Virginia, so I'm confident we will win. We'll win for Tim Kaine as well in the Unites States Senate seat. But, you know, Virginia is a purple state and a lot of work needs to be done, and we're ready to do it.
NNAMDIBut do you agree with the notion that if the president wins Virginia, he wins the election?
MORANI do, I do. Now, there are -- the pundits will say there's a couple of scenarios where President Obama could actually become president without Virginia. But they say also that there's no way Mitt Romney wins without Virginia. So we are a critical state, and I think the DNC showed us some love this week. They provided us floor seats. And we had a number of visitors, national figures visiting the Virginia delegation during the course of the week as well to, you know, to emphasize that point of just how important Virginia is to this election.
NNAMDI800-433-8850, if you have questions or comments about the District of Columbia delegation, the Virginia delegation, the Maryland delegation, anything that happened with those delegations at this convention. Call us, 800-433-8850. You can send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Mark?
PLOTKINWell Brian Moran really, in some ways, understated its importance without mentioning this line. I talked to the pollster in Tampa for Romney, Newhouse. He said Virginia is the new Ohio. I'm sure you've heard that. No Republican has been elected without carrying Ohio. And since 1964, when Lyndon Johnson won it -- Kennedy did not -- every time a Democrat has won Ohio, they won the election. So to give that sort of primacy is really something. And I'm sure Chairman Moran, who is very conversant with the political facts of the day, maybe he's being self-effacing.
MORANWell, you know how I am.
MORANI'm so understated and -- but the...
MORANGiven to understate what...
PLOTKINBut gracious is -- of all the states, President Obama has been there only two other states more.
MORANYeah. Oh, he was just in...
MORANHe was visiting Norfolk, Va., when we were already here in Virginia -- Charlotte.
PLOTKINI think he's had nine visits since May.
MORANHe's been to the battleground areas of Loudoun, Norfolk. You know, Hampton Roads area is going to be extremely important. There's a Northern Virginia audience today. And, of course, Prince William and Loudoun Counties are the two real swing states, P-swing counties.
MORANFairfax County is the enormous county to provide the vote and the Democrat has to do well in Fairfax County. Prince William and Loudoun County, we're really emphasizing 'cause those are swing states. And the president has a message that will resonate in those counties.
PLOTKINWell, let me ask the chairman this question, which I'm sure he will dodge. It seems to me that there's a -- there could be possibility because people said there are no -- there are some Romney -- Kaine...
PLOTKINThere are no Romney...
MORANNo Allen-Obama voters, yeah.
PLOTKINYou gave me that line, yeah.
MORANI can't imagine a -- an Obama-Allen vote.
PLOTKINOK. There's not one in the state. But -- so does that mean that Kaine is -- let's be straightforward and honest -- that Kaine is a stronger candidate than the president, and the president literally might have Kaine coattails rather than the other way around?
MORANWell, I wouldn't -- well -- and we have two incredibly strong candidates. We have Tim Kaine, a former governor, a results-oriented governor, problem solver. People just like Tim Kaine, and they should like Tim Kaine. Tim Kaine will win in -- on Nov. 6, and the president will win Virginia on Nov. 6. We're blessed to have two extremely gifted individuals running and Virginia's going to turn out for them. They both -- they have messages, you know, they're talking about investing in education, growing the middle class and -- so those messages will resonate.
MORANThere was a great line last night from the president that said, you know, when our men and women in uniform return from Afghanistan and Iraq and take off those uniforms, we, you know, they deserve as much as they have served us. You know, we have to respect their service as much as they have provided to us. And he's -- and that's why we have expanded the GI Bill so that they can get education, so they can get good jobs.
MORANThat issue is really important in Virginia. We have 800,000 veterans in the Commonwealth of Virginia. So you heard a lot of that last night because that message will resonate in Virginia. And this president is delivering for our veterans.
NNAMDIAre you planning on splitting the ticket in Virginia? Call us, 800-433-8850. Are you voting for Romney and Kaine or Obama and Allen? 800-433-8850. Former Republican Congressman Virgil Goode learned this week that he will be on the ballot in Virginia as a candidate for the Constitution Party. What will this mean for Democrats? Are you guys doing cartwheels over this?
MORANWe have -- we're going to win Virginia regardless. Virgil Goode, however, is an extremely conservative individual. I think we'd all agree with that.
PLOTKINHe's been a Democrat. He's been a Republican. He's been an independent.
PLOTKINHe's been politically expedient.
NNAMDIAnd he's always been a conservative.
MORANHe's always been a conservative and he represented the 5th Congressional District. So those who are dissatisfied with Mitt Romney would have an alternative. There's also Virgil Goode.
PLOTKINThere's also the libertarian candidate -- Gary Johnson, I believe, is on the ballot as well -- that people perceive would help if you're talking just about a few vote margin -- few thousand vote margin.
MORANReally hasn't happened though since, what, 1992 with Ross Perot. I mean, an independent candidate really has to have sufficient resources for people to even know they're on the ballot, but -- so we don't, you know, we're looking at this thing as this is between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama. We have the better candidate. We have the better message, and we're going to win in November regardless of what -- who else is on the ballot.
NNAMDIOn to the phones. Here is Iman in Chantilly, Va. Iman, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
IMANKojo, thank you for taking my call. I'd like to ask your guests, how can we defeat Eric Cantor? Eric Cantor is the one who's stopping the political -- everything he's trying to do, he's a -- would -- he's at war with the president. And he -- as a Virginian, we are embarrassed that Eric Cantor is part of Virginia congressmen. I'd really -- I wish that we can spend more money to defeat because this is the time that we have, the Virginians, to let them know.
IMANEverything the president wants to do, Eric Cantor is the one who's stopping. He's working for millionaires. He not -- he doesn't care about the men. All he cares about, how he gives more tax cuts to millionaires, and I listen to the answer over the phone.
NNAMDIWell, this -- you are, in some ways, defining Brian Moran's job. So, Brian, what's your strategy?
MORANNo, well, first of all, we have a Democratic candidate for Congress in every one of our 11 congressional districts. We're very proud of that. Every one of our 11 congressional districts, from Southwest Virginia to Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads into the Piedmont, we have a Democrat running for Congress and that we're a very healthy party, and we have strong candidates. In the 7th Congressional District in which Eric Cantor represents and has for a long time, we have a strong candidate, Wayne Powell. He is running.
MORANSo I'd suggest, you know, recommend this gentleman visit Wayne Powell on his website, find out about Wayne and support Wayne Powell. Eric Cantor is the majority leader. The resources Eric Cantor has are enormous. The caller mentions two good points about the money in politics. We've just learned this week that in Virginia, $37 million will be spent and the vast majority of which is being spent by Republicans.
MORANWe are being outspent in Virginia by about 2-1, Republican versus Democrat, in terms of expenditures. The second point he made was the one with respect to the obstructionism. You know, the president is working hard. And that's why I think he enjoys such a favorability rating in the polls 'cause people know the president empathizes with the situation which American find ourselves. We're making strides. We're on our way. But he needs partners in the Congress.
MORANHe needs people who are members of Congress who are going to lookout for Americans not just the party affiliation. And Eric Cantor has been obstructing this president. The president put forward a jobs bill last year that would've created 2 million jobs, and the Republicans said that it was dead on arrival. I mean, we -- they need to start acting like adults, and the caller has rightly identified Eric Cantor as one who obstructed this president.
PLOTKINOne -- some of the motivations of Eric Cantor is, first of all, that he would like to be the speaker of the House rather than the member of his own party, John Boehner. And there is an internal division there that's based just on personal ambition which is always going to occur. But the major thing, which I think people overlooked about why President Obama is having problems, is he lost control of the House. His party lost control of the House, just like Clinton did in 1994.
PLOTKINAnd the reason Lyndon Johnson got all that great society legislation through were they were enormous. You were a member. You were the chair for Democratic caucus. There were enormous majorities in the House and the Senate.
MORANNot during Lyndon Johnson's time.
PLOTKINNo, not during Lyndon Johnson. No. That was in the side when you were in the legislature.
MORANListen, it's just how old I am.
PLOTKINYeah. Yeah. Thank you for that.
PLOTKINFor -- yeah. And I've also said, we were talking outside, about what could -- what has now happened because of redistricting and because the legislatures draw their lines.
PLOTKINAnd I know Brian has offered legislation which would remedy this, but it didn't go through. I remember Charlie Stenholm, a Blue Dog Democrat, saying, if you want to do one thing to change the political dynamic, take the drawing of the congressional lines out of the hands of state legislatures, have non-partisan citizen people draw the lines because what you have is the incumbency protection rule where incumbents of both party, their districts are preserved.
PLOTKINYour brother, Congressman Moran, is a -- an active and willing participant of that in Northern Virginia, and you don't have competitive districts. And also this is heresy. The Congressional Black Caucus, which I think is 42 seats, loves to have all African-Americans congregated in one district so they can perpetuate them role rather than competing. And the...
PLOTKINWell, let me finish. And the Democratic Party buys into this, and so you don't have competitive districts. And so what we have is that incumbents just protecting their ideological flanks.
NNAMDIIn case you're just joining us, Mark Plotkin is our guest analyst. He's an analyst for Fox 5 in Washington. Our guest is Brian Moran. He is the chairman of the Virginia Democratic Party. We're taking your calls at 800-433-8850. Brian Moran, I interrupted you.
MORANNo. I'm just going to agree with my friend, Mark Plotkin. That was a very astute observation that you made, Mark. I would say don't overstate in that everyone thinks -- every member of the caucus thinks this is the right way to go. We had a member in Virginia, Bobby Scott.
PLOTKINHe's a notable exception.
MORANYeah. There you go. That said, you know, we only have one African-American congressman from Virginia, one out of 11. Yet, we have 22 percent population is African-American. So he actually was willing to give up some of his Democratic leaning precincts to try to form a new minority-majority district in certain part of the state. So...
NNAMDIAll of that said, Brian Moran, what is the most important groundwork over the course of the next two months that you've got left to do?
MORANWell, the redistricting issue is really important, but the next 60 days...
PLOTKINYou have to pick up 25 policies.
MORANLet's talk about the next 60 days, fair enough.
NNAMDINext 60 days.
MORANNext 60 days 'cause redistricting is a long-term solution. I couldn't agree more with Mark's observation that we need to be more bipartisan on that. But next 60 days, what do we do? We're on the ground. And there's going to be an air war, and I just mentioned $37 million just in Virginia.
MORANBut, you know, battles are won on the ground, and we have a ground game in Virginia. I just finished a two-week tour. I was on a two-week tour before arriving in Charlotte.
PLOTKINDid that help the effort or hurt the effort?
MORANThanks, Mark. Appreciate it. I just gave you compliment. Thanks a lot. But -- and I truly think it helped the effort. What we're doing as a party, primarily the Democratic Party, we're going to areas where they're not Democratic-leaning. I mean, I don't spend a whole lot of time in my wonderful city of Alexandria or Arlington 'cause they're organized, they're going to vote Democratic and they're terrific.
MORANWhere we spend our time is Virginia Beach, where it is a swing city, needs to be organized. And that you'll see on my lapel here today, organize, mobilize, win, and that is our theme over the next 60 days. And it has frankly been our theme over the last several months.
NNAMDIYou seem to be suggesting that the air wars -- and that what's going to decide this election.
MORANYou know, there's a saturation point, Kojo...
PLOTKINEven the president admitted today in his speech.
MORAN...and a lot of them are negative to -- right, he's like, you ever heard me say, I approve this message, and I'm sick of them, too?
MORANGod bless him. And we are. It's a saturation point. They're negative. We're going door to door. We're calling people. I was in Waynesboro, Va., just outside Charlottesville, a rural area. And on a Saturday morning, a rainy Saturday morning, by the way, we get there and it was standing remotely. And, Mark, I was the only guest to speak to them, and there's a standing-room-only sign.
NNAMDIWait, I got to get some calls in.
MORANPeople are fired up. They're enthusiastic. Waynesboro...
PLOTKINI would like to ask some tough questions for the chairman since…
MORANI look forward to it.
PLOTKINThe Post is such a consummate engager...
NNAMDIWell, let me get Jonathan in College Park to ask first. Jonathan, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
JONATHANHey, how are you doing, Kojo? I'm a first-time caller.
NNAMDIRight. Thank you.
JONATHANThank you. I'm a student at the University of Maryland, and I'm calling because, you know, my parents are really, really hard working. And I live in the state of Maryland, and I was just curious, despite being outspent 2-1, I wanted to ask the guests how -- I'm curious as to how you feel confident that Democrats are going to win in Virginia in this upcoming election.
MORANThank you. Well, one of the reasons is because the message last night in the work that this president has done over the last three years of his administration with respect to veterans. We have 800,000 veterans in Virginia, a large population in the Hampton Roads area in particular. And this president's providing services to these veterans when they return home from Iraq and Afghanistan -- educational benefits, GI Bill, so that they can get into the workforce with good-paying jobs, veteran's health care services.
MORANHe's working with the health care administration to make sure that these veterans are provided the necessary services. You know, they served us. We need to serve them as well as they served us. So that's a big issue in the commonwealth of Virginia. Also, the middle-class themes that the president is talking about that's growing this economy from the middle out, you know, it's the middle class that consumes our goods.
MORANIt's the middle class that purchases the homes, the biggest asset in those homes and the home improvements, automobile purchases and so forth. They're the ones that -- the middle class needs to be healthy in this country 'cause they're the ones that makes the purchases of goods and services, and that's where our economy leans right now. So that theme is very important. And lastly -- and I am getting a heads up from Kojo here, but education -- higher education, affordable and accessible higher education.
MORANHigher education in Virginia is extremely -- we have some of the wonderful colleges and universities. You go to University of Maryland so you know all about it in terms of access and affordability in colleges, Pell grants. A lot of folks don't have access to higher education without some economic assistance, financial assistances through the Pell grants. And the other side, the other ticket is talking about cutting Pell grants. This president has been increasing Pell grants. So those issues resonate in the commonwealth of Virginia.
PLOTKINThat's all very well and good, Chairman Moran. But what happened to you, may I ask? I almost can answer for you. You say there's a bigger universe...
NNAMDIHe does that a lot, asks and answers his own question.
PLOTKIN...but in 2009, you got clobbered. You lost all three offices after 2008: governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general. In 2010, you -- prior to that, you had a majority in the congressional delegation, and now it's 8-3. So are you just banking on the fact that more people will vote in a presidential election and -- but in nine -- in 2009 and 2010, there was a complete repudiation of the Democratic Party in the commonwealth of Virginia.
MORANThat's a -- it's a great question. And as I said earlier in the program, you know, Virginia is a purple state, Mark. It's a tough state. We hadn't voted for a Democrat in 44 years since Lyndon Johnson. So we are not taking anything for granted. We have had ups and downs. But Virginia is capable of supporting Democrats. We saw it in 2001, Mark Warner won. We saw it in 2005 with Tim Kaine.
MORANSo we need to focus on fiscal responsibility. I think Mark Warner labeled the Democratic Party of Virginia as the party of fiscal responsibility. He had to clean up the mess from Jim Gilmore. In this...
PLOTKINIs Mark Warner running for president in 2016? 'Cause we -- We haven't gotten...
MORANYou switched gears on me. You switched gears on me there.
PLOTKINWell, I know what you're going to say...
MORANTim Kaine's running for the United States Senate in 60 days, and we needed (unintelligible)...
PLOTKINWell, but I know we're going to get to Martin O'Malley. So...
NNAMDII was about to go to Maryland, even as we speak, because we have not yet discussed Maryland and its role in this convention. The governor of Maryland and several other Marylanders got significant speaking roles at this convention, but it just seems to me as if what was most important for Maryland about this convention was whether it could get momentum on some of the initiatives coming up in the November election there, the initiative on gay marriage and the initiative on the DREAM Act.
MORANWell, in terms of the DREAM Act, that has now been entirely embraced by the Democratic Party in really a passionate and, I think, inspiring way. In terms of same-sex marriage, the euphemism now is be allowed to be with someone you love. The word gay marriage was never actually used from the podium whatsoever. So a euphemism was used. But in terms of Martin O'Malley, I want to tell a story about -- a quick story, a short story, don't worry.
NNAMDIThat'll be a change.
MORANAn abbreviated story. I said to Ike Leggett, where's Gov. O'Malley, 'cause why isn't he sitting with you in the delegation? And he pointed to the bank of electronic skyboxes as if, you know, pick one of that...
MORAN...and that's where you can find Martin O'Malley. And I had one brief conversation with him, and he is still smarty over that line. I think it was Bob Schieffer's show where they asked him directly, are you better off, the favorite Ronald Reagan line, and he said no. And he said, I've been on talk shows which I don't think he's at all opposed to being on more talk shows. I mean, this was, for all practical purposes, the Martin O'Malley presidential campaign four years early. But -- and I don't think he would deny it. But the point is, he said, it goes to show -- he volunteered it.
PLOTKINI didn't even ask him the question. This is how sensitive this is when they parse a year and a half of quotations. Well, if you're running for president, there's going to be enormous scrutiny. I couldn't see anybody who more enjoyed the attention that he was getting than Martin O'Malley, and he's an appealing guy.
NNAMDIWhen he was on this broadcast on Monday, he talked about going to play guitar with Jeff Bridges. He seemed to be very busy at this convention...
NNAMDIBusy is an understatement, huh?
MORANI would say so. He's a terrific spokesman for the party, and we're very, very proud of Martin O'Malley. He has helped the Democratic Party out in Virginia, and we invite him back. He spoke at a JJ Dinner a couple of years ago. He's terrific.
PLOTKINIt reminds me of the line from the producers when they say, can we get him? Can we get him? And they say, only if we ask. I don't even think we have to ask.
NNAMDIThat line -- a line that is generally used about Mark Plotkin, as a matter of fact.
MORANWell, it's not true. I mean, Martin has really come through for a lot of Democrats, and he's a great spokesperson and a great governor. And, you know, he's made the investments in Maryland. And, look, he got reelected.
MORANYou know, he's made the investments in education and roads in -- you know, if you contrast what the governor in Virginia, current governor, versus Martin O'Malley, you know, they're talking about education and transportation, economic development, creating jobs in Maryland. This last session in Richmond, they were talking about ultrasounds and personhood. I mean, what a contrast.
PLOTKINOK. Now the other point is that there was also an active gubernatorial campaign because O'Malley is term-limited, and you saw Doug Gansler and Lt. Gov. Brown and Peter Franchot, who is very much virulent in terms of his anti-O'Malley. And I heard Heather Mizeur of Takoma Park is also interested. So these conventions provide an opportunity with the party faithful to cultivate their own base. Yeah.
NNAMDIAnd people get high-profile speaking engagements. Congresswoman Donna Britt spoke. Minority Whip...
NNAMDIDonna Edwards. Minority Whip Steny Hoyer also spoke at the convention. But we also talked...
PLOTKINAnd Barbara Mikulski.
NNAMDIBut we also talked with a delegate to the general assembly from Montgomery County, Delegate Ana Sol Gutierrez. And we had some conversation with her about what she thinks this convention will do with some of those initiatives coming up. Here's what she had to say.
DELEGATE ANA SOL GUTIERREZWe're quite concerned. We're having our fingers crossed because we feel that there's a lot of misinformation. I am delighted with how much emphasis there is at the national level, at this convention, about dreamers. What that does, I think, is that it raises the issue to a level of understanding and of common explanation as to what is the situation of the dreamers.
DELEGATE ANA SOL GUTIERREZThat is going to undermine what we're hearing about the DREAM Act in Maryland, that this is a benefit that's being given away, that it's taking places away from American students. None of that is true. None of that is true. And yet we keep on hearing it repeated and repeated. So we've got a lot more education to do as we're moving on towards Nov. 6.
DELEGATE ANA SOL GUTIERREZWe're looking for a simple message for question four, and hopefully that that will carry with -- also with -- for marriage equality, which is question six. And maybe joining hands, we can make sure that we spread the word out so that people will not be confused with the referendum and not vote. That's our concern, is that when the referendum questions are too complicated, people decide not to vote.
NNAMDIDelegate Ana Sol Gutierrez. She represents Montgomery County in the general assembly. Mark Plotkin.
PLOTKINIf there's one great fear that I got from Republicans in Tampa -- and I'm being analytical -- is that they are very fearful of the demographic changes in this country, and especially among Hispanics. The goal of John McCain was to get 38 percent of the Hispanic vote, and he was not perceived as anti-immigrant. Right now, Mitt Romney is at 28 percent, and the Republican Party is very much worried that this is their last convention where they're searching for every white vote that they can get.
PLOTKINAnd that's why they ran those welfare ads. That's code in my mind, and I'm not speaking as a partisan Democrat. I'm speaking as, supposedly, a insightful political analyst. Right now, Romney is at 28 percent, and the Democratic Party has decided to say, wait a second. And by the way, Hispanic groups were very opposed, prior to the executive order, about dreamers, young dreamers. There had -- they used to cite Luis Gutierrez.
PLOTKINThe congressman from Illinois had a shouting match with the president in the Oval Office concerning that there had been more deportations in this administration than any other.
NNAMDIThan in any previous.
PLOTKINAnd he changed the whole nature of that with that executive order, and these ballot initiatives maybe will win or lose. But in terms of Republicans appealing to Hispanics, they are very, very worried that they're going to be shut out, and they are only hoping the turnout will not be as great as it should be.
NNAMDIFrom Maryland, back to Virginia with Stephanie in Fairfax, Va. Stephanie, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
STEPHANIEHi. First, I would like to say thank you for taking my call and my question and your time today. And my -- I would like to also say thank you because I -- as a veteran of the United States Navy, I have actually really been very happy with the Post-9/11 GI Bill and the benefits I've been able to receive from that and going back to school.
STEPHANIEBut I have to say that I don't think it's very easy, actually, for a veteran to -- who served in Virginia and then served out of the state of Virginia to come back to Virginia and get education because even though the Post-9/11 GI Bill pays for in-state tuition, there's still out-of-state cost. And it's really hard for a veteran to come out of the out-of-state tuition cost despite serving in Virginia and establishing a domicile.
MORANThat's interesting. I was a state legislator -- this is Brian speaking -- and we actually voted, when I was in legislature, to make sure that returning veterans were counted as in-state domiciliaries of Virginia so they had access to the in-state tuition, not out-of-state. So I'm curious as to your experience because we actually passed a law, which I supported, that would qualify you for in-state tuition.
MORANSo if that's not happening, I'd like to get a chance to chat with you. You can reach me at email@example.com, and I would like to work on that issue with you because that's -- I recall that vote very well, and we want to honor veterans and provide them the opportunities that they so richly deserve.
NNAMDIStephanie, thank you very much for your call. This one may sound a little long-winded, but I guess it's my turn to be long-winded in this broadcast. On Wednesday night, President Clinton brought up a major policy difference between the two presidential tickets, which has been mostly missing in our political coverage: changes to Medicaid. In Virginia, Medicaid currently covers almost 600,000 kids, almost 300,000 elderly and people with disability, and just under 180,000 non-disabled adults.
NNAMDIBut the state is widely considered to be much less generous than D.C. and Maryland. The Affordable Care Act envisions lowering the eligibility requirement and expanding the safety net mostly with federal money, a change that would expand Medicaid rolls by as much as 40 percent in Virginia. But the Romney campaign envisions Medicaid as a block grant from the federal government, which would probably actually lead to benefit cuts. How do you think this issue will play in the commonwealth? Is there an appetite for expanding the safety net in Virginia?
PLOTKINAnd before Brian answers it, you didn't -- he didn't...
NNAMDINo question is long enough for Plotkin.
PLOTKINHe didn't include the Supreme Court decision on the Affordable, which said that states could opt out of these Medicaid provisions in terms of funding. And Republican governor such as Gov. McDonnell -- I don't know about Gov. McDonnell, but other Republican governors have been enthusiastic about taking that exception and not adhering to the law and basing it on the Supreme Court decision.
MORANWell, I'm real pleased that we heard during this convention that Democrats are starting to get on the offensive about health care. And 30 million more Americans now have access to health care. Hundreds of thousands of young people between the ages of 18 to 25 now have access to health care. That -- so that's an issue that speak volumes about our values as a Democratic Party, and preventive services. You know, we got to lower the cost of health care, and you do that through preventive services. And the Affordable Health Care Act provides prevention.
PLOTKINPre-existing conditions, lifetime care.
MORANIn pre-existing conditions. You heard that from Debbie Wasserman Schultz last night. She is a survivor.
PLOTKINWhy has it taken so long? Obama has not said anything. In ads, you've been defensive about this rather than saying, wait a second, we're proud of this. I read a congressman from North Carolina, whose name -- who didn't run again, who voted for the health care bill, said it was the proudest vote I ever had. I mean, 40 more million people are going to be insured. Why has the Democratic Party allowed...
PLOTKIN...the Republican Party to literally shake this debate and make it such that the health care bill was a pejorative that you were silencing? You're right. You came out at this convention...
MORANNice frame. We're -- yes. And we got to mojo back on this issue. We need to take the offensive on that. Challenge, it's difficult to explain. And we had the great communicator, the new great communicator after Ronald Reagan. If we want to go there the night before, that's Bill Clinton. Bill Clinton was just methodically and understandably. He crystallized complicated issues. And maybe that's what the Democrats needed to hear.
MORANFor Bill Clinton to walk through, you know, health -- the health care act is going to save us money over the long term. It's going to make us a healthier and stronger economy, and it was the right thing to do. And Democrats have rallied around that, and we're talking about it. And we're going to talk about it on the next 60 days. It's complicated to do and the challenge...
PLOTKINBut you highlight -- some of the ad says, which you...
PLOTKIN...have universal application that Republicans cannot -- come back.
MORANWell, then -- and I do enjoy the fact that we replicated Mitt Romney's Massachusetts health care bill. So he isn't the person to criticize, and I guess Paul Ryan is going to do it but...
NNAMDIDemocrats held on to a House of Delegates seat in Alexandria this week when Rob Krupicka won a special election to replace Dave Englin. But should there have been a special election this Tuesday at all? It was the Tuesday after Labor Day, the first day of the convention, the first day of school.
MORANOh, it should have been Nov. 6.
MORANWhy make the taxpayers of the commonwealth pay for a special election on Sept. 4? I don't know why the governor did that. It was...
PLOTKINWell, don't you know why? I mean, the governor did that because he obviously felt the low turnout might elect a Republican.
MORANIn Alexandria, that isn't going to happen. We're organized in Alexandria. We got a great candidate. Congratulations to Rob. It wasn't gonna happen...
NNAMDII got a caller...
MORANAnd Bob McDonnell should know better that we're not going to let him take a seat at Alexandria.
NNAMDIWe got a caller who has a question for Mark Plotkin. Here is Jessica in Washington, D.C. Jessica, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
JESSICAHi, Kojo. Thanks for taking my call. My question is specifically about the D.C. delegate process. I'm fairly new or relatively new to the city, but my husband was telling me that the process to elect the D.C. delegates happened on one day, and it was about four hours that you could vote for the delegates. And I'm wondering, how does that come about?
JESSICAIt kind of makes it difficult for any Democrats in the city to get out and actually vote for delegates. And is there any chance to change that? I understand that Marion Barry was one of the delegates, and I really don't think that represents the city.
NNAMDIYou should understand that Mark Plotkin was once a member of the D.C. Democratic State Committee...
NNAMDI...so he is an insider where this is concerned.
PLOTKINWell, that was in a former life. And it allows me to repeat something that Kojo would never...
MORANDid you support Franklin Roosevelt in the '42 nomination?
PLOTKINNo, Al Smith -- is that I actually was a member, an elected member of the D.C. Democratic State Committee in a previous life, and both beat Robert Washington, the chairman of the party, by over 3,000 votes. Having said that, which was a complete shameless self-promotion...
PLOTKIN...I will say this, in some ways, these are caucuses which nominate -- which place the people to go on to the convention as a delegate. And, Jessica, if you rounded up 100 -- or maybe not even maybe 100 -- 80 of your closest friends and acquaintances and showed up at that caucus, you could be a delegate. So in a way it's the most participatory. When I was -- I run for -- as a Kennedy -- tried to run as a Kennedy delegate in a former life, and they had a two-step process where there -- you had to get nominated at the caucus.
PLOTKINSo you brought all your friends and anybody else you can convince to vote for you then your name was placed on the ballot. Also something Brian, I'm surprised, didn't mention in terms of appealing to women's vote is there's equal division and...
MORANFifty-fifty. I was -- 50-50. I mentioned the race and sexual orientation, but gender is 50-50.
PLOTKINFifty. Half the -- of the convention have to be women. So right now, in four years, plan to get everybody you know if you want to be a delegate, or somebody else you want to favor, get them to this caucus because it's a one-step process. Now, your criticism that maybe the local Democratic Party doesn't publicize where this meeting takes place.
PLOTKINBut in terms of participatory democracy, what is wonderful is you -- it used to be, prior to '72, people like Tip O'Neill was not elected a delegate in Massachusetts because all of them McGovern people. And that's why they now have secured sinecures for elected officials, super delegates, because they are afraid that people such as yourself would be so interested. They bring their friends, and you'd knock off better-known names...
MORANSo as chair of the party...
NNAMDIJessica, thank you for your call.
MORAN...I would like to give a shameless plug to local committees. I'd encourage her to contact Anita Bonds -- she is the chair of the D.C. delegation -- and join her local committee. Through the uses of social media now, in Facebook and all, you can be engaged in your local committees.
MORANIn Virginia, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Join your local committees. We need you.
MORANWe want you to feel...
PLOTKINCan we talk about Bill Clinton?
NNAMDIYou only have about a minute left.
PLOTKINJust that if the election turned, I would think in terms of coattails, Bill Clinton with that speech and as Brian very eloquently said, he is a defense of Obama. He did exactly what I thought he would do. He'd make a better case for Obama than Obama could make for himself.
MORANWell, if there was one person that could actually outdo Bill Clinton, it'll be Barack Obama. I mean, what a lineup, Michelle Obama, Bill Clinton and then Barack Obama. It was -- and, really, we were...
NNAMDIWell, in Virginia...
MORAN...treated to some great speeches.
NNAMDIIn the 30 seconds or so we have left, Virginia can't afford to be only looking at November right now. You've got to start gearing up in 2013. McAuliffe told us that he's going to focus on the presidential effort until November and then decide what he's going to do about running for governor. What kind of groundwork do you think the party has in place for the race in Richmond next year?
MORANWell, in Virginia, we're very, very special. We have an election every year, and we got to turn around in 2013 and elect a Democrat to the governor's office. We saw what happened in Richmond this last year. Instead of talking about transportation solutions, getting people back to work and investing in education, they were talking about ultrasounds and personhood. We need to get a Democrat back now.
MORANSo over the next 60 days, one of the my duties as well is to recruit candidates to run next year, and I'm getting a lot of people interested and encouraging them. We're going to have a strong...
PLOTKINIs anybody going to run against McAuliffe?
MORANWell, I'm going to let the process. But Terry has been working really hard, and he's going to be a great candidate if he decides to do that.
NNAMDIBrian Moran is the chairman of the Virginia Democratic Party. Thank you very much for joining us.
MORANGreat to be with you, Kojo.
NNAMDIOne person he's not going to ask to run in Virginia is Mark Plotkin. He is our guest analyst. He's an analyst for Fox 5 in Washington.
NNAMDIMark Plotkin, thank you so much for joining us.
PLOTKINThanks very much for inviting me.
NNAMDI"The Kojo Nnamdi Show" is produced by Brendan Sweeney, Michael Martinez, Ingalisa Schrobsdorff and Tayla Burney with assistance from Kathy Goldgeier and Elizabeth Weinstein. The managing producer is Diane Vogel. Natalie Yuravlivker is on the phones. Special thanks to all our engineers in Washington and Charlotte for making this week of broadcasts happen, including Timmy Olmstead and Jonathan Charry of WAMU. Andrew Chadwick is here in Charlotte with us.
NNAMDIOur engineering and support team at the GROUNDCREW Studios in Charlotte includes John Cosby, Josh Sacco, Ross Wissbaum and Katherine Goforth. Podcasts of all shows, audio archives, CDs and free transcripts are available at our website, kojoshow.org. Thank you all for listening to the series of broadcasts from Charlotte. We'll be back in Washington next week. Once again, thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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