The Odd, Painful, and Bizarre Final Days of Ken Cuccinelli

Who's winning, who's losing, and why.
Oct. 29 2013 12:27 PM

The Final Days of Ken Cuccinelli

No one would have guessed that Terry McAuliffe would be Virginia’s Democratic champion.

Rand Paul joins Ken Cuccinelli at campaign rally in Virginia
Sen. Rand Paul (right) joins Ken Cuccinelli at campaign rally in Virginia.

Photo illustration by Lisa Larson-Walker/Slate. Photos by Win McNamee/Getty Images.

HERNDON, Va.—“We’re going to stick with the founders,” said Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. “We need people to know that Nov. 5 in Virginia is a referendum on Obamacare!”

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

The place: A conference center nestled in the unending concrete yawn of Fairfax County, Va. The audience: At least 300 cheering Republican voters, there to sign up for the final stretch of Cuccinelli’s gubernatorial campaign and to see special guest Sen. Rand Paul. The message: The last way that national Republicans want this race to be perceived. If these are the final days of Ken Cuccinelli’s political career, as the polls suggest them to be, the wider Republican Party wants to say a safe, spinnable distance away from the smoldering wreckage.

What was supposed to be a competitive race for governor between two unpopular candidates is in danger of turning into a rout. Terry McAuliffe, the former Democratic National Committee chairman, has overcome a series of financial scandals and a governing record that consists of Meet the Press appearances to build a 10-point lead over Cuccinelli. No Democrat has built that sort of lead in a Virginia gubernatorial race since 1985. No Democrat has won this office while a member of his party was in the White House since 1965. And those records are going to be busted by Terry McAuliffe? It baffles Republicans.

Advertisement

But in person, it’s not baffling at all. On Tuesday, Cuccinelli and McAuliffe hit the trail just 10 miles apart, in separate Northern Virginia suburbs. Cuccinelli is currently losing these suburbs by 24 points and was being outspent on TV even before one of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s shell groups started spending money here. It’s getting more liberal as more government contractors and nonwhite voters move in. McAuliffe has effectively disqualified Cuccinelli with these people, telling them with incessant TV ads that the attorney general opposes legal contraception and shutters abortion clinics.

Cuccinelli’s Fairfax rally was meant for the other voters, the ones being outnumbered. Shortly before 3 p.m., they streamed in, signed up for get-out-the-vote operations, and picked up Cuccinelli or “I Am the NRA” signs being passed out by volunteers. When Cuccinelli arrived, it was side by side with Paul, the two of them hoisting 64-ounce Double Big Gulps.

“I heard Mike Bloomberg wanted to buy the governor’s office down here,” Paul explained, “and I figured after he took my Big Gulp, he’d come after my guns.”

Earlier in the day, in Lynchburg, Va., Paul had warned conservatives that genetic testing could lead to a dystopian eugenic future. He stayed away from that in Fairfax, delivering a shorter version of his speech about the dangers of war-on-terror policing. “They’re writing one warrant to apply to millions and millions of people,” said Paul. “We fought the Revolution because we were mad about the British soldiers coming into our homes to enforce the Stamp Act.”

“And we won!” yelled a Cuccinelli backer.

This was rather disconnected from the issues of the gubernatorial race. In his own 24-minute speech, Cuccinelli stayed closer to the point, deriding McAuliffe as an obvious charlatan and fool who would do the bidding of the Democratic Party. “Remember when he was running on GreenTech?” said Cuccinelli, referring to the electric car company McAuliffe founded after his failed 2009 run for governor. “Two federal investigations later, he’s not talking about it so much!”

Cuccinelli’s audience knew every beat of this. They were, generally, well-versed in talk radio and aware that a McAuliffe win would boost the people he spent his life working for—the Clintons. “Hillary Clinton? I hate her,” said April Hudson, a libertarian-minded Cuccinelli supporter. “I think she’s a murderer. I think she should be in jail. She disgusts me. Everything she did in Benghazi, it disgusts me. She should be disqualified from running for president.”

“Virginia’s a real plum for the Clintons,” said Margaret Hobble, a Cuccinelli supporter from Winchester, Va. “Hillary and Obama worked under the same man, Saul Alinsky.”