Cuccinelli needs to close the gap with women voters in Virginia

Virginia gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli (R) talks about why he is lagging behind with women voters. (The Washington Post)

With less than a month left in the race for Virginia governor, Republican Ken Cuccinelli is struggling to win over women voters, who polls show overwhelmingly favor Democrat Terry McAuliffe.

Cuccinelli, who is attorney general of Virginia, said in an interview with PostTV’s In Play this week that his opponent had spent heavily on television ads that paint an inaccurate picture of his record on women’s issues.

“We’re in the disadvantageous position of being badly outspent and we’re getting pounded on television with a single theme,” said Cuccinelli referencing ads like this one criticizing Cuccinelli’s record on contraception.

Planned Parenthood also plans to spend more than $1 million on television and radio ads suggesting that women can’t trust Cuccinelli. The effort is in partnership with the Keep Ken Out campaign authorized by McAuliffe. Cuccinelli has responded with ads in which women dispute that notion, and an independent group Women for Ken declares on its Web site that the GOP candidate “has a proven record of fighting to protect and to advance Virginia women and families.”

In his closing statement during last month’s Virginia gubernatorial debate McAuliffe blasted Cuccinelli for “introducing legislation that would outlaw most common forms of birth control and bullying the Board of Health, which resulted in the shutting down of some women’s health centers.”

“Frankly, I think Virginia women have had just about enough of Ken Cuccinelli’s experience,” McAuliffe said.

Cuccinelli countered by citing instances in which he has promoted women’s health issues and been an advocate for women, from setting up domestic violence programs in the attorney general’s office to fighting human trafficking.

“No one up here has done more to protect women, which is a focus of his [McAuliffe’s] attacks, than I have,” Cuccinelli said in the debate. “Whether it was back when I was an engineering student at UVA and a friend of mine was sexually assaulted — my response was to start a new organization that’s still functioning there to protect young women at UVA.”

Cuccinelli said during his interview with In Play that when it comes to his stances on birth control and abortion “some of them are quite simple.”

“I do not support government playing a role in adults’ choices about contraception. Just don’t, period. Haven’t in the past, he [McAuliffe] would like to say that I have, but I haven’t,” said Cuccinelli. “And I’m committing to not doing that in the future.” Cuccinelli opposes abortion, except when it’s necessary to save a mother’s life.

The numbers are currently in McAuliffe’s favor. According to the most recent Washington Post/Abt-SRBI poll, McAuliffe is leading among female voters by a 24-point margin.

Looking ahead, Cuccinelli said in the interview that he had some “good news” for the remaining five weeks of the campaign.

“The more people learn about both candidates, the better we do,” said Cuccinelli. “And that’s true of both men and women.”

Casey Capachi is a video and web producer for The Washington Post.

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