Peter Galuszka wrote in the WaPo yesterday to tell us "why McAuliffe lost the state Senate." His answer:
McAuliffe approached this as he would something on the national level: He tapped his wealthy pals. Before you could say “lock and load,” an advocacy group affiliated with former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg decided to put $700,000 in gun-control money into ads supporting Gecker....
Powhatans would not take kindly to a New York boo-bah [sic] telling them what they should do with their guns.... They do not want the nanny state.
Galuszka is usually a good reporter, but what he's implying here is that McAulifee called up his rich pal Bloomberg and asked him to personally intervene in the race. Where's the evidence that this actually happened?
Galuszka is probably right that the explosion of outside money in the race was one key factor in Gecker's loss. But he obscures a key part of Sturtevant's success: making it personal. Mike Bloomberg didn't fly down to Virginia and bust out his checkbook. But everyone -- including mainstream media outlets - bought that line and unwittingly helped send Gecker home.
Yes, the non-profit advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety targeted the 10th District race for an almost unprecedented ad buy of an announced $700k. But as Jeff Shapiro pointed out, that amount was at least matched on Sturtevant's side by the Republican State Leadership Committee, plus additional support from non-profits like the NRA.
Republicans wisely portrayed the Everytown money as coming directly from a New York billionaire. But Bloomberg, although a key funder of the organization, only created one of the group's component parts (the mayors' coalition) and doesn't seem to be heavily involved in the day-to-day running of the organization. Why not blame Warren Buffett, who also funds the group? Answer: Buffett is a folk hero to conservatives, while Bloomberg is a NYC Jewish "liberal." (Which in Powhatan, might as well be a space alien.)
We'll see more of this next year. Many observers noted how this year's VA races, particularly the 10th, was a kind of laboratory for next year's Presidential race. We'll soon see a host of national organizations flood Virginia airwaves with TV ads in this key electoral college state. Let's hope the media gets a little more savvy about how they report about these expenditures, and not just parrot a party line. Hasn't poor Mike Bloomberg suffered enough?