WARRENTON, Va. — On the eve of Virginia's gubernatorial election, Republicans are insisting the race's outcome will be a "referendum" on Obamacare — even though the Republican candidate and Obamacare foe, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, trails Democrat Terry McAuliffe in the polls.
At a modest get-out-the-vote rally Monday in Warrenton, Sen. Marco Rubio, who is weighing his own presidential political prospects in 2016, came out in support of Cuccinelli and honed in on that message.
"This is the first election in America since the full impact of Obamacare has been felt," Rubio, R-Fla., said. "This is the first chance that people in America have to speak clearly at the ballot box about the impact this law is having on their lives and our economy."
Cuccinelli carried that idea one step further.
"Tomorrow in Virginia is a referendum on Obamacare," Cuccinelli said. "Let's send a message and say 'no' tomorrow to Obamacare."
The health care law has indeed been poorly received by much of the public following its glitch-dogged debut. At a rally in Arlington on Sunday, McAuliffe and President Obama avoided the subject — something for which Cuccinelli ribbed them.
But calling Virginia's gubernatorial race an outright referendum on the law before votes have been cast carries a huge risk for national Republicans should Cuccinelli lose, affording Democrats the opportunity to claim voters supported Obamacare. Cuccinelli's team, for its part, hopes the 11th hour attempt to portray the election as a referendum on Obamacare will rev up the conservative voters who comprise Cuccinelli's base.
This tack has created a marked disparity between the character of the Virginia governor's race and the other high-profile governor's race that will conclude Tuesday in New Jersey between Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican with sights set on running for president in 2016, and Barbara Buono, a Democrat.
Christie has staked his success on touting a Republican platform while still drawing support from scores of Democratic voters in a blue state, and he looks poised to be re-elected by a historic margin for a Republican in New Jersey.
Cuccinelli has taken the opposite approach, playing chiefly to conservative Republicans and Tea Party voters in a swing state.
That step to the right was on display Monday as some of Cuccinelli's supporters cheered him on in Warrenton.
"What do Democrats in this race stand for?" Rubio at one point asked the crowd rhetorically. "Socialism," a man in the crowd shouted in response.
Various polls have shown Cuccinelli trailing McAuliffe though by varied margins heading into Tuesday's election.