According to a poll released last week, the Virginia Governor’s Race is a dead heat, as both candidates struggle to become a household name despite years in politics.
A Christopher Newport University survey found 31 percent of registered voters preferred Terry McAuliffe in the race, putting him in a virtual tie with Ken Cuccinelli, who finished with 30 percent. About a third of Virginians were still undecided. Neither candidate is well-known, with nearly half of those polled indicating they had no opinion of McAuliffe and four in 10 saying they were undecided on Cuccinelli.
In addition to name-ID problems, both candidates could face an extra challenge from moderate Republican Lt. Governor Bill Bolling, who said on a recent radio interview that there is a “50% chance” he would mount an independent campaign. The same poll showed Bolling earned 9% of the vote, pulling votes from both candidates. Local conservative bloggers have posted widely circulated rumors that Bolling is being urged to run by major McAuliffe donors. This is what conservative icon Richard Viguerie referred to as Bolling’s “Charlie Crist” moment.
Both major party campaigns started the new year with approximately $1 million to spend (and Bolling has about $1.5 million on hand). However, Cuccinelli is facing a serious disadvantage, as his fundraising operation must shut down while the General Assembly is in session (late February), while McAuliffe – a well-connected, personal friend of former President Bill Clinton – can keep raising unlimited amounts of money. In addition, both President Barack Obama and now-Senator Tim Kaine carried Virginia in 2012.
Regardless of state polling data, Cuccinelli needs no introduction to any serious political observer in the country. As a Tea Party favorite and conservative legal scholar, Cuccinelli has been perhaps the most visible face in the anti-ObamaCare movement, as he was the first Attorney General in the nation to sue the Federal Government on behalf of his state to stop the insurance mandates.
During the 1990s, Cuccinelli was a familiar sight on the Northern Virginia’s GOP scene. But, when he first ran for the state Senate in 2002, his candidacy seemed so unlikely that a number of Democrats voted for him (Virginia has open primaries), thinking he would be easy to defeat. When Cuccinelli won that primary, the Republican vacating the seat, Warren Barry, backed the Democrat, claiming that Cuccinelli was too conservative. After being underestimated, he won by about 2,000 votes.
The Virginia Senate is known for more backroom deal-making than grandstanding. But Cuccinelli didn’t play such games, and he annoyed many moderate Republicans in the process. In his second year, he introduced proposals to expand gun rights and restrict abortion. He also helped re-shape the Virginia GOP into a more conservative party by encouraging Tea Party activists to take a more active role. In November, Virginia passed a constitutional amendment to make it more difficult for the government to take private property, which Cuccinelli helped write.
Cuccinelli’s opponent, former DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe, who spent most of his life as a New Yorker, is the worst kind of Democrat. He is not the type who fights for an ideology or principles – instead, he has used his substantial political connections to become wealthy.
McAuliffe first amassed his fortune in the early 1990s, with early investments in Global Crossing, a former telecommunications company. The Bermuda-chartered company was caught up in scandal and SEC investigations after it earned contracts arranged through the Clinton White House as it capitalized on buying up regional phone companies and jumping on new opportunities in China, while forcing employees to pack their retirement funds with company stock. While those workers lost their pensions, the CEO walked away with hundreds of millions and donated $1 million to the Clinton library. McAuliffe, with his close association to the CEO and the Clinton Administration’s SEC, turned his $100,000 investment into $18,000,000 in just a few months. Don’t you wish you could earn that type of return!
McAuliffe’s latest venture has been using government grants and loans to grow his unprofitable electric car company, GreenTech Automotive. He has been under heavy criticism for accepting a generous offer by Mississippi to build the factory in their state, instead of Virginia. Major media outlets, following the outstanding reporting of the VA Watchdog, have shown GreenTech never submitted a viable business model to Virginia economic development officials, despite Terry’s claims to the contrary.
The Virginia Governor’s race will be exciting, as it is a true battle of core Conservative principles vs. the worst type of Washington insider. VA voters should prepare for heavy TV advertising and direct mail, as candidates and outside groups will move quickly in hopes of defining the opponent in this tough battle.