This fall’s campaign for governor of Virginia is the only truly competitive race in the country, and is being watched closely as a bellwether for 2014 and beyond. With a 2-to-1 advantage in campaign cash, Democrat Terry McAuliffe built an early lead in the polls — as much 10 points in a Roanoke College survey — by running attack ads against his Republican opponent, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. Planned Parenthood also assisted the Democrat with scary ads about Cuccinelli, a conservative pro-life Catholic and father of seven.
In recent weeks, the Cuccinelli campaign has begun counterattacking, releasing new TV ads that depict McAuliffe as untrustworthy, and with the Virginia fight now in the final nine-week post-Labor Day race to Election Day, the GOP is slamming McAuliffee on a daily basis.
If Cuccinelli comes back to defeat the Democrat in November, the turning point will be seen as an ad that began airing in August, highlighting federal investigations of McAuliffe’s failed GreenTech Automotive project:
The tagline of that ad — “You can’t trust Terry McAuliffe” — has become a campaign theme for Republicans, repeated in speeches by Cuccinelli as well as his surrogates. Stumping for Cuccinelli in southwest Virginia, where Democrat-backed environmental regulations are a major threat to the coal industry, Del. Israel O’Quinn (R-Bristol) said Tuesday, “Terry McAuliffe cannot be trusted. He said four years ago he didn’t want another coal plant built in Virginia so I’ll take him at his word.”
Cuccinelli’s campaign hammered home the message about McAuliffe’s record on coal:
With radical environmentalists like Tom Steyer and the League of Conservation Voters pumping millions of dollars into Virginia, it’s clear that McAuliffe’s chosen sides in the war on coal. With his desire to never see another coal plant built and his refusal to answer direct questions about policies that will devastate Southwest Virginia’s coal communities and raise the price of electricity for all Virginians, there is no longer any doubt that McAuliffe is willing to put his environmental ideology ahead of Virginia workers.
Even while slamming McAuliffe’s record day after day, however, Cuccinelli’s campaign has also sought to repair the damage done by the Democrat’s early attack ads that portrayed the Republican as a harsh ideologue. In doing so, the latest Cuccinelli TV ad highlights his record as attorney general, helping exonerate a man wrongly convicted of a crime:
Can Ken Cuccinelli close a 10-point gap in just less than 10 weeks? One Virginia GOP operative says he thinks so, but expects it to be close. The key, said the Republican who asked that his name not be used, will be a grassroots turnout effort led by volunteers and strong debate performances by Cuccinelli, who “knows his stuff” on policy issues, and has a proven record to contrast against McAuliffe, who has never held public office.