If the gubernatorial campaign in Virginia has taught us anything so far about the state of elections in America it’s this: anything goes. Republican Ken Cuccinelli and Democrat Terry McAulife haven’t shied away from talking about anything. From making sodomy laws a topic of discussion, to fighting over which candidate is the most scandal ridden, these two have used every national and local issue at their disposal to cast the other in some unflattering limelight. Now with the government shutdown hitting close to home, a national issue is being used for local ends.
Virginia as a state is uniquely affected by the government shutdown. Northern Virginia has 145,000 federal workers, even more government contractors, particularly in the defense industry. There are 27 military bases in Virginia, and Virginia Beach has one of the largest concentrations of naval bases in the country. The economy of Virginia therefore, is very much entwined with the funding of the federal government, making the government shutdown an important topic of concern.
Despite the fact that Ken Cuccinelli has been serving as a state attorney general prior to running for governor, and therefore didn’t have a say in the government shutdown, Terry McAuliffe has been using his opponent’s Republican party membership against him, blaming Cuccinelli specifically for the shutdown. “Ken Cuccinelli was apparently more concerned about his reputation with the tea party than with ending the government shutdown that is undermining Virginia’s economy,” McAuliffe said at a recent event at Northern Virginia Community College. “It is the obligation of Virginians to send a message to Washington — a government shutdown should never be a bargaining chip.”
Cuccinelli on the other hand, has been struggling to win both the Tea Party vote, which largely supports the shutdown, as well as the moderate Republicans he needs to win, who oppose the shutdown as a tactic. Recently, Cuccinelli appeared at a Family Foundation Gala in Richmond alongside Tea Party Senator Ted Cruz, a staunch proponent of the government shutdown. Cruz spoke at length, lauding Cuccinelli for his strong stance against Obamacare. Cuccinelli on the other hand, made no mention of Obamacare or the shutdown in his speech, and avoided taking photos with Cruz.
Still, Cuccinelli did say over the summer that he believed the country would be better off with more men like Ted Cruz in public office. He has also said that he would block all attempts at a state level to force Virginia to adhere to Obamacare, should he be elected governor. Following the gala in Richmond, Cuccinelli told reporters that he had privately asked Cruz to end the shutdown. “I talked to him when he was done taking his photos with all the folks there, and told him how much we were hoping this would be over soon and urged him in that direction,” Cuccinelli said.
Political pundits are watching the Virginia gubernatorial race very closely to gain insight into how the Republican Party will fare in the midterm elections in 2014. Recent polls from the state are confirming what everyone is already suspecting: that the Republican death match to keep the government closed in order to defund Obamacare is not helping them win over voters. The most recent poll conducted by Politico this past week since the shutdown has taken affect shows this correlation pretty clearly.
The Cuccinelli campaign’s increased use of television ads attacking Obamacare aren’t helping the Republican candidates’ efforts to distance himself from the GOP shutdown in Washington. If Cuccinelli hopes to make up ground in the four short weeks prior to election day he should do two things. One, focus on jobs and leave Obamacare alone and two, pray hard for the Republicans to salvage their reputation and get the government back up and running.