McAuliffe: Obama key to convince his supporters to vote for Clinton
by Amanda Iacone, WTOP.com
WASHINGTON — Barack Obama could be the key to unlocking voter enthusiasm for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign as she continues to court millennials, African American and even women voters who are not sold on the democratic nominee.
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, one of Clinton’s closest political allies and longtime friend, told WTOP on Wednesday there is no shortage of enthusiasm for Clinton in the Old Dominion. But he said the campaign and supporters can’t let up and must continue to remind voters of the progress made during Obama’s eight years in the White House from jobs to health care.
“Her most important weapon in this regard is President Obama who has been out front constantly not only to support Hillary but also talking about what a disaster Donald Trump would,” McAuliffe said.
Obama was expected to be at Fort Lee Wednesday afternoon to speak to troops at the Army base south of Richmond and before that he was set to take part in a town hall on CNN. McAuliffe said he would be with the president.
“He’s the most important thing,” McAuliffe said of Obama.
Obama was able to turn out millennials, African Americans and women voters to help him win two presidential elections — key constituencies Clinton must also draw support from to offset Donald Trump’s strength among men, especially middle class, white men.
Still, McAuliffe remains confident about Clinton’s prospects on election night in Virginia and other swing states like Florida and North Carolina.
He said Monday night’s debate offered voters a clear choice between a candidate with a plan, versus a candidate who hurls insults and describes not paying federal income taxes as “smart.”
“Let’s focus on the issues instead of these theatrics. Last night it was almost comical to watch the man, he was unhinged last night in the speech he gave,” McAuliffe said.
Budgets, state trooper pay and sequestration
McAuliffe said that the federal spending deal announced on Friday would not provide any relief from sequestration-level spending caps on military spending, which have been a drag on Virginia's defense-heavy economy.
But he said the repeated stopgap funding measures make it even more difficult for businesses, including the major defense contractors in Northern Virginia, to plan. He said businesses are leery of filling high-paying jobs vacated by retiring workers because of the uncertainty over federal spending.
Unfilled jobs and lower-paying jobs directly effects state spending by reducing tax dollars available to pay for schools and roads.
“We’ve got to permanently solve this issue,” McAuliffe said of federal budgeting. “We can’t continue to do this stopgap funding. We need certainty. Every business needs that if you’re going to invest and grow.”
Funding that would have paid for raises for teachers and state employees was tapped to help cover the shortfall.
McAuliffe said he’s hopeful the state’s cash flow improves so that those raises can kick in as planned next year including for state troopers, who have been leaving the state police to take higher paying jobs in places like Texas and Michigan.
McAuliffe said he’s understands why troopers are leaving after 10 years of stagnant wages. He said lawmakers also want to boost state employee and teacher pay but it all depends on how much revenue the state collects.
Collections have been up since the start of the new fiscal year in July, he said, but it’s too soon to make any promises to state employees.
“I’m the ultimate optimist. We’ve got to see where we go with the budget.”
McAuliffe said transportation projects currently underway won’t be affected by any budget cuts. He said he also wants to protect investments in education that lawmakers made last year.
Expanding Medicaid would help the state reduce cover its budget gap, McAuliffe said. And he plans to make another push to extend the health care coverage to more Virginians.
But the proposal is likely dead on arrival. Leaders in the Republican-controlled General Assembly have said repeatedly that they don’t support Medicaid expansion because the state would be left covering the full cost once federal funds related to the Affordable Care Act run out.