A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Moran’s Miscues in Virginia

Brian Moran is so far the least visible of the trio of candidates competing in the Virginia Democratic gubernatorial primary, set for June 9. He’s the only one who hasn’t run a TV spot yet. But on May 17, he went up with his third radio ad, aiming to show a lot of daylight between Terry McAuliffe, the front runner, and President Obama. McAuliffe, on his Web site, calls the ad a "False Attack."

"The truth is," says the narrator of the ad, "Terry McAuliffe led the campaign that ran the 3 a.m. attack ad against Barack Obama." That’s absolutely true, as far as it goes. Which isn’t as far as it should, because it never tells you that the campaign McAuliffe chaired was that of Hillary Clinton, a fellow Democrat, in the presidential primaries last year. The 3 a.m. ad, which implied that only Clinton had the experience necessary to handle global crises, was one of the most talked-about of the campaign, but it ran in early 2008. In the general election campaign, McAuliffe was a vocal Obama supporter.

The ad’s narrator also says: "The fact is, if Terry McAuliffe had his way, Barack Obama wouldn’t be our president today." That depends. If you’d asked him a year ago, maybe. But if you’d asked him last September, we doubt it. Context being everything, we’re pretty confident that McAuliffe preferred Obama over Republican nominee John McCain, if not over Clinton. Or at least so it seemed in his many public appearances on Obama’s behalf.

But the narrator jumps the shark when he says that "McAuliffe even went on national TV and joked, ‘Barack Obama can kiss my (bleeped).’" That’s because we barely hear the word "joked" in this line, though it’s the most salient portion of the sentence. Here’s what actually happened: On June 3, 2008, the last day of the Democratic primaries, it appeared that Obama had enough delegates locked up to win the nomination. But Clinton hadn’t yet conceded, and McAuliffe, her most vocal cheerleader throughout her campaign, wasn’t giving ground either.

McAuliffe appeared that night on Jon Stewart’s "The Daily Show." Incredulous that McAuliffe was such a die-hard, Stewart decided to play the role of Obama running into McAuliffe after the primaries were over. "What the f___???" the Stewart/Obama character said. General audience laughter. Stewart asked McAuliffe how he’d respond, to which McAuliffe replied "Kiss my ___, Barack." He and Stewart crack up, but McAuliffe immediately said, "Just teasing, just teasing, senator." Stepping out of the scenario, McAuliffe insisted that as a party, "We’re going to come together quickly," post-primaries.

No question, McAuliffe was an ardent advocate for Clinton. As one would expect from a former Democratic Party chairman, though, McAuliffe navigated his way to Obama with little difficulty and was an enthusiastic Obama supporter in the media and at rallies. While Moran’s Web site says the radio ad "sets the record straight on Terry McAuliffe’s long history of working against President Barack Obama," McAuliffe never worked against President Barack Obama, or Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama. And when last we checked, Clinton was serving as Obama’s secretary of state, indicating there’s been a burial ceremony for some old swords. Maybe Moran missed it.