Ken Cuccinelli's Parting Gift to Democrats: An "Obamacare Referendum"

Weigel
Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Nov. 5 2013 8:54 AM

Ken Cuccinelli's Parting Gift to Democrats: An "Obamacare Referendum"

186887949
Marco Rubio, left, and Ken Cuccinelli have been doing their best to make Virginia's gubernatorial election about Obamacare, but it hasn't been working exactly as hoped.

Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

Bill Kristol writes in the Weekly Standard that the GOP candidate for governor of Virginia can win if the election turns into a referendum on the president's health care law. Surely enough of Virginia hates that law to be willing to cast a proxy vote here.

Kathleen Murphy, running in a competitive Northern Virginia district (mine!), saying she believes the state should force Virginia doctors to accept Medicare and Medicare patients. This is of course a kind of extension of the logic of Obamacare.
So: Shouldn't Cuccinelli and friendly outside groups, in the final two days of the campaign, try to make the race a full-fledged referendum on Obamacare? It's late in the day, of course. But if I controlled a few hundred thousand dollars, I would robocall and leaflet every home I could in the state, making Kathleen Murphy's statement famous, tying McAuliffe (who’s already a big Obamacare defender) to his fellow Democrat, and making clear that a vote for McAuliffe is a vote to extend, expand, and entrench Obamacare in Virginia, and that, conversely, a vote for Cuccinelli is a vote to begin to limit, repeal, and replace Obamacare.
Advertisement

The only problem with this argument is that Cuccinelli has already been using it, for weeks. I've seen the candidate twice since the end of the government shutdown, and both times he spent minutes explaining that to vote for him was to vote against Obamacare. Here he was, recently, in Prince William County:

This is a referendum on Obamacare, and to help us clarify that point, the president is coming tomorrow.

Here was Marco Rubio repeating the theme in Culpeper:

I think clearly this is one of the first opportunities that Americans have had to speak out on the role of federal government in the aftermath of the implementation of Obamacare, which is hurting real people.

And here was Cuccinelli making a closing argument in Politico:

Virginia can send Washington a message that we oppose Obamacare with our votes on Tuesday. Virginians who oppose Obamacare can vote for me, and Virginians who want to see Obamacare grow further can vote for McAuliffe.

This isn't a secret meme. "You heard this morning, for instance, the campaign manager of Ken Cuccinelli say that when they were talking about the shutdown, they were having a hard time," said Mitt Romney on Meet the Press two days ago. "But now they're talking about Obamacare and his campaign is doing better and better."

It's not entirely wrong. But it is mostly wrong. On Oct. 17, the day the government shutdown ended, the RCP average gave Democrat Terry McAuliffe a 7.4-point lead over Cuccinelli. On Election Day, that average has shrunk to ... 6.7 points. Two weeks of making this election a "referendum" has boosted Cuccinelli by less than 1 point. If the polls are right, Democrats will be incredibly grateful that Cuccinelli gave them a "referendum" and they won it.

David Weigel is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

TODAY IN SLATE

Justice Ginsburg’s Crucial Dissent in the Texas Voter ID Case

The Jarring Experience of Watching White Americans Speak Frankly About Race

How Facebook’s New Feature Could Come in Handy During a Disaster

The Most Ingenious Teaching Device Ever Invented

Sprawl, Decadence, and Environmental Ruin in Nevada

View From Chicago

You Should Be Able to Sell Your Kidney

Or at least trade it for something.

Space: The Next Generation

An All-Female Mission to Mars

As a NASA guinea pig, I verified that women would be cheaper to launch than men.

Terrorism, Immigration, and Ebola Are Combining Into a Supercluster of Anxiety

The Legal Loophole That Allows Microsoft to Seize Assets and Shut Down Companies

  News & Politics
Propublica
Oct. 17 2014 4:21 PM Why the Poor Pay $1,400 for Old iPads #MuckReads: A weekly roundup of investigative reporting from ProPublica.
  Business
Business Insider
Oct. 19 2014 11:40 AM Pot-Infused Halloween Candy Is a Worry in Colorado
  Life
Outward
Oct. 17 2014 5:26 PM Judge Begrudgingly Strikes Down Wyoming’s Gay Marriage Ban
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 17 2014 1:54 PM Republican Midterm Debate Strategy: Be Pro-Life, But Not Anti-Abortion
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Oct. 17 2014 1:33 PM What Happened at Slate This Week?  Senior editor David Haglund shares what intrigued him at the magazine. 
  Arts
Behold
Oct. 19 2014 4:33 PM Building Family Relationships in and out of Juvenile Detention Centers
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 17 2014 6:05 PM There Is No Better Use For Drones Than Star Wars Reenactments
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 19 2014 7:30 AM Persistence Pays Off: The Smoking Trail of a Shooting Star
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 16 2014 2:03 PM Oh What a Relief It Is How the rise of the bullpen has changed baseball.