America's Only Election: The Virginia Gubernatorial Debate

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Sept. 25 2013 9:44 PM

America's Only Election: The Virginia Gubernatorial Debate

TYSONS CORNER, Va.—The last competitive elections in America this year are the races for control of Virginia's statewide offices—governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general. Before the start of tonight's gubernatorial debate, Democrats were telling me that the last of the three races was the only one worth panicking about. They worried that Mark Obenshain, the GOP's nominee for AG, "read" as pretty moderate. The implication: No such problems with Ken Cuccinelli and E.W. Jackson, the social conservatives running for the top two jobs.

Terry McAuliffe, the DNC rainmaker-turned-politician, attempted to take advantage of that by swinging every debate topic back to Cuccinelli's social views. "Gridlock, driven by the Tea Party, is once again risking a government shutdown that would be devastating to the Virginia economy," he said. "My opponent has spent most of his career on a social ideological agenda. He has pushed personhood legislation which would outlaw most forms of contraception, would make the pill illegal in Virginia. He bullied the Board of Health that would shut down the woman's health centers. Women are 50 percent of the workforce of the United States of America. You cannot grow an economy by putting walls up around Virginia."

Advertisement

Cuccinelli's response: playing up his offense at these charges. He helped free Thomas Haynesworth, an innocent man, from prison, and he was proud of the TV ad that informed voters of this. And anyway, McAuliffe was a sleaze. Cuccinelli grasped for chances to point this out, using his final question/answer time to just rattle off the scandals voters needed to know about—the boondoggle electric car venture GreenTech, the Lincoln Bedroom scandal in the Clinton years, being an "unindicted co-conspirator" in a scandal that rocked a Teamsters election.

After the debate, David Bossie of Citizens United (which is running anti-McAuliffe ads here) bemoaned how the moderators never really teed up a question about McAuliffe and GreenTech. Why not the Lincoln Bedroom? "We have new scandals now!" he said. "GreenTech's being investigated by the DHS and SEC!"

Cuccinelli's team seemed to be at a loss on the best anti-McAuliffe tactic. Was it the candidate's refusal to come up with "a price tag" for his education plan? When pressed, McAuliffe insisted that "first you figure out your priorities," then you count. Was it McAuliffe's answer to an odd question about the state's constitutional ban on gay marriage? The questioner asked whether McAuliffe would "lead" on the issue; Cuccinelli pounded and said McAuliffe didn't understand that the governor wouldn't get a vote on it, that a reversal of the ban would move throught the state legislature.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

TODAY IN SLATE

Sports Nut

Grandmaster Clash

One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.

The Extraordinary Amicus Brief That Attempts to Explain the Wu-Tang Clan to the Supreme Court Justices

Amazon Is Officially a Gadget Company. Here Are Its Six New Devices.

How Much Should You Loathe NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell?

Here are the facts.

Amazon Is Officially a Gadget Company

Science

The Human Need to Find Connections in Everything

It’s the source of creativity and delusions. It can harm us more than it helps us.

Food

How to Order Chinese Food

First, stop thinking of it as “Chinese food.”

Scotland Is Inspiring Secessionists Across America

You Shouldn’t Spank Anyone but Your Consensual Sex Partner

Moneybox
Sept. 17 2014 5:10 PM The Most Awkward Scenario in Which a Man Can Hold a Door for a Woman
  News & Politics
Jurisprudence
Sept. 18 2014 10:42 AM Scalia’s Liberal Streak The conservative justice’s most brilliant—and surprisingly progressive—moments on the bench.
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 17 2014 1:36 PM Nate Silver Versus Princeton Professor: Who Has the Right Models?
  Life
Outward
Sept. 18 2014 11:25 AM Gays on TV: From National Freakout to Modern Family Fun
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 18 2014 12:03 PM The NFL Opines on “the Role of the Female”
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 17 2014 9:37 AM Is Slate Too Liberal?  A members-only open thread.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 18 2014 11:48 AM Watch the Hilarious First Sketch From Season 4 of Key & Peele
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 18 2014 10:07 AM “The Day It All Ended” A short story from Hieroglyph, a new science fiction anthology.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 18 2014 7:30 AM Red and Green Ghosts Haunt the Stormy Night
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.