- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Former Democratic Party Chairman Terry McAuliffe is one step closer to launching a bid for the Virginia governor’s mansion.

Aide Tracy Sefl confirmed Monday that Mr. McAuliffe has created a campaign committee. The 51-year-old McLean resident next will embark on a two-month tour of Virginia before making a final decision on a gubernatorial run.

“I think I can make a difference,” Mr. McAuliffe told the Associated Press. “I think I can go out and fight for people. I think I can create jobs. I think I can take this state in a new direction, and the thing I’d like to do, too, is to come out with some big, bold ideas. I think that’s what this state has to hear.”

Mr. McAuliffe most recently stumped in Virginia for President-elect Barack Obama after working as head of the presidential campaign for the senator’s Democratic rival, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, of New York.

The AP reported Mr. McAuliffe also launched a new Web site Monday (www.terrymcauliffe.com) and said he would be announcing political advisers over the next week. He said he will make a decision on running Jan. 7.

“That is the purpose of the tour, to hear from his fellow Virginians,” Ms. Sefl said. “He’s really looking forward to these coming weeks.”

Mr. McAuliffe would join a race for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination that already features two state lawmakers: Sen. R. Creigh Deeds of Bath County and House Democratic Caucus Chairman Delegate Brian J. Moran of Alexandria.

Mr. Deeds, who narrowly lost a 2005 bid for attorney general by roughly 300 votes to Republican Bob McDonnell, said Mr. McAuliffe’s potential entry is no surprise and “changes nothing for me.”

“It’s what I’ve expected, and you know, it’s a free country,” Mr. Deeds said. “He lives in Virginia. He’s of the legal age. He can run for governor.”

Moran spokesman Jesse Ferguson welcomed Mr. McAuliffe to the race but took a shot at his associations and knowledge of governing.

“Delegate Moran helped make Virginia the best managed state in the nation so he doesn’t need governing advice from Washington, D.C., political operatives,” Mr. Ferguson said.

Virginia Democrats will hold a primary election next year to choose a gubernatorial nominee, while Mr. McDonnell, the attorney general, is the lone Republican running for the position.

Mark J. Rozell, a professor of political science at George Mason University, said having a narrow field could benefit Virginia Republicans, despite recent elections in which Democrats have made tremendous gains.

“It could be a bruising battle to the [Democratic] nomination, which only the Republicans can enjoy,” Mr. Rozell said.

If Mr. McAuliffe decides to run, he likely would have no trouble raising money to put together a competitive campaign: The wealthy entrepreneur and Catholic University graduate remains one of the Democratic Party’s most prolific fundraisers.

But while his national recognition may help him in a primary against Mr. Deeds and Mr. Moran, a McAuliffe candidacy could raise questions about his in-state credentials.

Still, his powerful ties and the possibility of a campaign flush with capital would make Mr. McAuliffe a formidable candidate, Mr. Rozell said.

“The lack of long-standing ties to Virginia will be a factor that he has to overcome, no doubt about it,” Mr. Rozell said. “But this is a man who has real political acumen, knows how to talk people out of money better than just about anybody in American politics … I would not underestimate him.”

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