Cuccinelli's comeback: 'Ken fights for Virginians'

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Virginia,Paul Bedard,Washington Secrets,Terry McAuliffe,Ken Cuccinelli,Campaigns,2013 Virginia Governor Race

Not panicked by three straight polls showing Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli stuck behind campaign leader Terry McAuliffe, the Republican is shifting his effort into high gear with an aggressive plan to portray himself as somebody who has “always fought for Virginians.”

The strategy kicked off when the Cuccinelli campaign released a new and positive TV ad showing how he helped free a jailed African American man wrongly accused of rape. Campaign officials told Secrets that other similar ads and events highlighting Cuccinelli’s moves to help or protect Virginians while attorney general will follow.

The theme will be “Ken fought for Virginians,” said an aide. “This is the side of Ken that we are going to be making a big push on,” added the aide.


At the same time the campaign will be contrasting Cuccinelli’s record in Virginia with McAuliffe’s national agenda as Democratic Party chief and fundraiser for the Clintons. That theme: “What has Terry fought for besides his wallet?”

With both candidates suffering from high negative ratings, GOP strategists said the Cuccinelli plan could help the Republican build a positive Image while cementing voters’ views of McAuliffe, who has never held public office and whose Virginia businesses are under scrutiny.

Some political analysts have moved the race into the “lean Democratic” category, believing that it is getting too late for Cuccinelli to stage a comeback. But campaign officials note that Virginia races have a history of breaking late.

Behind McAuliffe by an average of 5-6 points in polls, Virginia politics expert Larry Sabato said that Cuccinelli will have to thread the needle to pull off an upset. “It’s possible,” he told Secrets. “But very tough.”

Sabato, head of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, suggested that Cuccinelli’s revival would be easier if more damaging information came out about McAuliffe. He cautioned, “It would have to be major to have an impact. Why? Voters have already received the message loud and clear that McAuliffe is not the most pristine gubernatorial candidate ever to come down the pike, nor the most experienced in governing. But so far, a plurality of voters appear to have decided that, despite his obvious drawbacks, McAuliffe is superior to four years of Cuccinelli.”

But he said that playing the “experience card” is a wise choice for Cuccinelli, well known for taking a leading role in fighting Obamacare on the state level.

Plus, he added, “Cuccinelli needs to tap into his populist side. He's not a corporate type or 'hail fellow well met' and never will be. Cuccinelli has made lots of enemies, so he must turn around and show average voters why his powerful enemies are their enemies, too, and that he'll fight for the 'little guy', not the well off.”

Paul Bedard, The Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at pbedard@washingtonexaminer.com.