Mayor Muriel Bowser, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan set off on a two-day trade mission to Canada on Monday to promote tourism, trade and diplomatic relations.
We don’t know about trade and diplomatic relations, but there are reports that world tourism to this region is down — and many think it has something to do with President Donald Trump’s image. Whatever that may be, local citizens should welcome the regional approach boosting the D.C. area. Meanwhile, the political winds for all three politicians are blowing quite nicely, too.
McAuliffe is in his last few months as governor. Soon, he’ll be packing up his beer keg and other belongings in the Richmond governor’s mansion and heading back to his home in Northern Virginia. Had Hillary Clinton won the presidency, McAuliffe’s stock in the private sector or chance to operate on the world stage would have been off the charts.
Instead, McAuliffe is weighing his options, and some believe one option includes a possible run for president. But first things first. He’s going all out to see that Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam wins the Nov. 7 race against Republican Ed Gillespie.
Northam and Gillespie battled politely last week in an hourlong NBC4 debate in McLean. Afterward, both sides stepped up negative ads to appeal to vote-rich Northern Virginia. It’s crucial for Democrats to run up the score in Northern Virginia, the Tidewater area and Roanoke (the so-called three-corner offense). Republicans tend to win everywhere else in the state.
New polling shows Northam with a small but firm lead. But Gillespie — according to Northam’s campaign itself — is well-known as an establishment Republican. He poses a real threat if Democrats don’t turn out in big numbers. Among many voters, Trump is a drag for Gillespie. But Gillespie is mimicking Hogan in Maryland, trying to downplay the national impact of the race.
Hogan, meanwhile, is confounding the stable of Democrats gearing up to run against him in 2018. A new poll released Monday by Goucher College in Baltimore suggests Hogan has maintained his popularity and so far has adequately distanced himself from Trump. The poll reaffirms that Trump is “deeply unpopular” in the state. The poll showed that 71 percent of those polled said they disapprove or strongly disapprove of the job the president is doing. And that was before the kerfuffle over sports teams kneeling or not for the national anthem.
The poll showed 62 percent of the respondents approve of Hogan as governor. That’s very good, but it’s down from a stratospheric 70 percent rating last year.
As a Republican in a dark blue Democratic state, Hogan has repeatedly countered Democrats, most recently with his ambitious, $9 billion road-building plan for the Beltway, I-270 and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway. The poll showed that 35 percent of registered Democrats intend to vote for him next year.
Still, it’s a long way until the summer primary for Democrats. The campaign could take on different attributes by then, based on whatever Trump does next and how Democrats sort out who is best positioned to take on Hogan.
On the WAMU Politics Hour last Friday, Mayor Bowser announced she is formally running for re-election. She noted she has worked well with both Republican Hogan and Democrat McAuliffe. She said the city would work with whomever Virginians elect to replace McAuliffe. In a bit of lightheartedness, she also said voters in Maryland and the District might be choosing new leaders, too.
It was just a little bit of humor but Bowser enjoyed the self-deprecating moment. In fact, the mayor is far more personable and friendly — when she wants to be — than the often stern image that her critics, some reporters and even a few supporters perceive.
We asked her about that image on the radio show, observing that The Washington Post editorial page, normally strongly in her corner, had pointed out she can be “prickly.”
Some people, we said, worry that her re-election would make her even more demanding and less tolerant of criticism. Others told us, however, that they hope — even expect — that a re-election victory would give Bowser more confidence to be more open and relaxed in dealing with D.C. Council members and those with whom she disagrees.
Which is it, we asked?
“My view is I certainly work hard every day to work with a lot of constituencies,” she told us. “And when almost two-thirds of the people [in a recent poll] say that you’re working well with our neighborhood or that you’re really good on our issue or our initiative, that means that we are doing the type of outreach that wins people’s support. We have to continue to do that. The council is no different.”
Bowser did acknowledge room to improve: “I think that I have certainly grown in my role. And one thing I have committed to is every fight is not an equal fight. So if there is an opportunity to give a little on this program or this piece of funding, then I will always look for ways to do that.”
The mayor fussed at us a little bit for worrying too much about how politicians get along rather than how much they get done. We thought both were important to serving the citizens.
Host Kojo Nnamdi interjected, “Let the record show Tom Sherwood just got lectured to.”
The mayor wasn’t lecturing. She made her point with a smile.
■ A hopeful word. Actually, two, as the baseball playoff season soon gets underway.
Tom Sherwood, a Southwest resident, is a political reporter for News 4.