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Trailing from Behind

Ken Cuccinelli’s up against a carpetbagging hack, and losing.

Nov 4, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 08 • By MICHAEL WARREN
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What McAuliffe is doing in the race is winning, and Virginia Republicans are struggling to figure out why. Tom Davis, the former Republican congressman from Northern Virginia, supports Cuccinelli but says his campaign isn’t offering anything to Davis’s old constituents, who are more moderate than most Republicans. The bedroom communities of Washington are more like New Jersey, he says, and they make up the part of Virginia that’s growing. Cuccinelli’s campaign isn’t trying to win votes here, though.

“They have a great model for southwest Virginia,” Davis says, referring to the culturally conservative region Republicans have lately been sweeping.

John Hager, a former lieutenant governor and state GOP chairman, says a barrage of negative advertising from McAuliffe has “thrown the race off.”

“Ken’s had a hard time settling on a message that resonates,” says Hager.

It hasn’t helped that Cuccinelli is being outspent by McAuliffe and outside liberal groups. McAuliffe ads litter TV, radio, and the Internet in places like Northern Virginia, all pushing the message that the pro-life, anti-gay-marriage Cuccinelli is a political extremist. “Ken Cuccinelli,” says one recent radio ad. “He’s way too extreme for Virginia.”

Cuccinelli counters the charge of social conservative extremism by responding quietly and hoping no one notices. Here’s an example. In March, a federal court ruled that Virginia’s anti-sodomy law was unconstitutional, and Cuccinelli appealed the decision. Prosecutors across the country use anti-sodomy laws not to police bedrooms but to get harsher sentences for child molesters, and the specific case that was overturned involved a 47-year-old man soliciting oral sex from a 17-year-old girl. 

Nevertheless, the McAuliffe campaign pounced, citing it as an example of the attorney general’s focus on a “divisive ideological agenda.” Many mainstream and liberal media outlets wrote the story up as such. Cuccinelli shot back by issuing a press release affirming that he is “committed to protecting Virginia’s children from predators” and directed reporters to a website with all the facts about anti-sodomy laws.

“That was a classic example of the media reporting their lies as fact,” Cuccinelli tells me when I ask him about the episode. “Once they figured out what was going on, they said, ‘Oh well,’ and moved on.”

The Cuccinelli team had moved on, too, and not soon enough as far as they were concerned. As one strategist advising the campaign put it, “There’s only one candidate talking about social issues, and that’s Terry McAuliffe.”

Michael Warren is a staff writer at The Weekly Standard.

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