STERLING, Va.—Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who rose to national fame as a legal crusader against Obamacare and the EPA, swung through his old home base today with four fellow attorneys general giving testimony. Those who had worked closely with Cuccinelli recalled the wise counsel he'd given. West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, who last year became his state's first Republican AG since the Hoover administration, credited Cuccinelli for helping elect him.*
"When you need to attribute the sins of the shutdown, don’t look over here," said Morrisey.* "Look somewhere else."
Cuccinelli's campaign is fretting about this. The candidate was losing before the shutdown, but he's shed a few more points in polls taken since it started. Before the rally, one voter I talked to could recite quotes from a Washington Post piece he'd just read, about voters blaming the GOP for the shutdown. After the rally, reporters used half the alotted Q&A time to pin down Cuccinelli about this.
"Are you concerned about the blowback to Republicans?" asked a reporter from NBC News.
"I always worry about things like that," said Cuccinelli, "but in my race, when it comes to running for governor … my opponent was saying he wouldn't sign a budget unless he got his Obamacare Medicaid expansion."
After a question about Kathleen Sebelius—why was Cuccinelli saying he wasn't getting involved in national politics, then making that demand?—another reporter went back to the shutdown.
"Last week, Larry Sabato called you the first casualty of the shutdown," she said.
"All I can do is be concerned and go forward," said Cuccinelli. "My role isn't to address any of that directly. I wasn't involved in that. It happened across the river from us. The real question, again, was whether 'someone running for governor in Virginia is willing to do the same' "—someone like McAuliffe.
So another reporter jumped in. "Polls show that anybody with 'GOP' after their name is affected by the shutdown."
"Three of you now have asked if I'm worried," said Cuccinelli. "I worry about everything. We have definite examples from me in 2006, where I passed a plan to get out of the problem, and 2013, where Terry McAuliffe said, 'Let me be crystal clear,' he will not sign a budget without the Medicaid expansion."
When Cuccinelli was finished with his third version of the answer, Anna Nix, Cuccinelli's spokesman, gave the reporters a free tip.
"Can we have one more NEW question?"
*Morrisey, a New Yorker by birth, moved to West Virginia in 2006 when he was working as a lawyer in Washington. Nothing wrong with that, but it made for a weird contrast when another speaker blasted Democratic nominee for governor Terry McAuliffe for not being a real Virginian. McAuliffe moved to this state in the '80s to become a D.C. political hack.
*Correction, Oct. 21, 2013: This post originally misspelled West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey's last name.