The Romneyizing of Terry McAuliffe

Is Terry McAuliffe running for governor of Virginia, Mississippi, or China?

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

In Virginia right now, Democrats are running a field experiment to see whether shamelessness can overcome a story that should obviously be political poison.

So: Terry McAuliffe, former DNC chairman and legendary Democratic fundraiser, ran for governor in 2009. He lost the primary, badly, in part because the other rival who kamakazi’d him portrayed him not as a businessman but as a “booking agent” for money as it accessed political power. In 2011, while looking at another run, McAuliffe announced that he’d purchased part of a Chinese company, and would start making GreenTech Automative car components here in the US of A. He told the Washington Post:

We have one plant in operation now in Mississippi and another under construction in Tunica, Miss., an area with tremendously high unemployment. We will soon be announcing our third U.S. facility. In addition, we have just broken ground for a new joint venture in Ordos, China, to produce 300,000 cars per year at full capacity.

Yes, while plotting a run in Virginia, he located his Virginia-based company’s factory in the paradise of Horn Lake, Miss., thanks to a tax credit package. Former RNC Chairman and then-Gov. Haley Barbour was proud of that package. Not ideal, if you’re running in Virginia, but McAuliffe really had moved a Chinese manufacturing business to the States—who cares if the company had made plans for such a move before he got there?

Cut to 2013. Republicans relentlessly retell the story of GreenTech as a story of deception. This video, from America Rising, reminds me of some of the good old Priorities USA hits on Bain Capital.

Again, McAuliffe was pretty open about the fact that China would host one of those monster factories, and the Horn Lake plant does exist—the empty field is where that second factory was supposed to go. But portraying McAuliffe as hypocritical in his attacks on other China-dealers (he was!) is a nice trick, and GreenTech isn’t blowing the doors off on sales. (If you live in a city, it sounds a little less dumb than it must sound if you live somewhere where you need to commute. Tiny SmartCars that can be rented and dropped off with relative freedom are all over D.C. But it’s not really selling.) The next depth charge for McAuliffe is going to be the DHS nomination of the current UCIS director, who talked to McAuliffe when GreenTech was waiting on its EB-5 visas. That shouldn’t be hard to scandalize, with an IG report on the way and House Oversight’s subpoena power. The way to get at this is the way Democrats once got at Mitt Romney; rarely does a party get such an attempt to enact immediate revenge for the fate of its last presidential candidate.