Conflict with Former VA Gov. Wilder Could Cost Obama Support Among Independents

Conflict with Former VA Gov. Wilder Could Cost Obama Support Among Independents

President Barack Obama’s path to the White House becomes increasingly difficult — if not nearly impossible — if he does not win Virginia. Virginia is as important to the Obama campaign as Florida is to Mitt Romney’s.

And Obama’s path to winning Virginia’s 13 electoral votes may have become more difficult on Thursday because his campaign seems to have entered into a conflict with one of Virginia’s most prominent Democrats — former Gov. and Richmond Mayor Doug Wilder.

Wilder, a historic figure who became the first black governor elected in the country after Reconstruction in 1989, denounced Vice President Joe Biden’s comments in which he told a Virginia audience that Republicans are “gonna put y’all back in chains.” 

On Thursday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters that Wilder “doesn’t have a point” in his criticism of Biden. 

Wilder, on FOX News’s “Cavuto,” on Thursday said “slavery is nothing to joke about” and that Biden’s comments do not “help the president.” Wilder also said that Obama’s “stuck” with Biden.

“It’s almost like the tar baby,” Wilder said. “He’s stuck with what he’s got.”

On Thursday night, Wilder appeared in a Richmond, Virginia hotel in which a fundraiser for Paul Ryan was taking place. There are conflicting reports as to why Wilder was there. One report, at Pajamas Media, suggests Wilder was recognized at the event. Another report indicates Wilder had been planning to attend Gov. Bob McDonnell’s education summit and accidentally went to the wrong hotel. In any event, Wilder was at the hotel in which Ryan was holding a fundraiser. 

Though he is not as influential as he was two decades ago, Wilder still holds considerable influence among Virginia’s black voters. In an election in which Obama will need every single black voter to turnout for him, Wilder’s lukewarm support — or lack of support — could discourage enough voters to potentially tip the state to Romney. In Virginia’s 2009 gubernatorial election, Wilder’s lack of support for Creigh Deeds, the Democrat who was running against Bob McDonnell, certainly hurt Deeds’ candidacy. 

And while the conventional wisdom is that if Wilder would hurt Obama with Virginia’s crucial black voters if he does not enthusiastically support Obama in the fall, Dr. Bob Holsworth, one of the most astute observers of Virginia’s political scene, told Breitbart News that if Wilder potential lack of support may also hurt Obama with Virginia’s independent voters who are fiscally conservative and moderate. These voters voted for Obama in 2008 when Obama carried Virginia over John McCain. 

“Wilder’s impact in Virginia has tended to go well beyond race,” Holsworth told Breitbart News. “His fiscal conservatism has been seen positively by moderate voters and lauded by succeeding governors of both parties.”

Obama needs to maximize turnout among black voters to win Virginia. However, Holsworth noted Obama would also need a “unified Democratic Party” and “a renewed appeal to independents to carry Virginia.” 

“A protracted debate with Wilder could certainly make this more difficult,” Holsworth said. 

Paul Ryan campaigns in Glen Allen and Springfield in Virginia on Friday, and he will be seeking to appeal to these very independent voters of which Holsworth spoke.

Since Ryan’s campaign stops are the only publicly-listed events on Friday, the mainstream media will pay closer attention to these events in Virginia, and this significant storyline should not be glossed over.