Much of the speculation about Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s political future has focused on whether the Republican who has made a name for himself suing the federal government would run for re-election, or for governor in 2013.
But in an interview with The Washington Post, Cuccinelli said he may run for U.S. Senate in 2014 -- possibly setting him up to take on one of Virginia’s most popular politicians, Democrat Mark R. Warner.
And Cuccinelli didn’t hold back on his criticism of the former governor, who many assume has grown a bit restless with the great deliberative body that is the U.S. Senate.
“I understand from people he and I both talk to that he’s pretty frustrated with it,’’ Cuccinelli said. “[But] I don’t see him doing anything to change that system. He hasn’t even tried.”
Cuccinelli said Warner should challenge his caucus, including Sens. Harry Reid (Nev.), Dick Durbin (Ill.) and Chuck Schumer (N.Y.) , instead of voting alongside them.
“He has a really liberal caucus,’’ he said. “It wouldn’t be hard to articulate an alternative to Harry Reid in the Democrat caucus.”
Warner, who was elected to the Senate in 2008 with more votes than any politician in state history, has not said whether he plans on running for re-election. Some speculate he could be interested in another run at the governor’s mansion, or maybe even the White House one day.
After hearing about the attorney general’s criticism of Virginia’s junior senator, Warner spokesman Kevin Hall said: “Once again, Mr. Cuccinelli is wrong on the facts, but never in doubt.”
Warner has been in the news of late for spending months, largely behind the scenes, trying to broker a deficit-cutting plan alongside a group of bipartisan senators known as the “Gang of Six.”
Cuccinelli said the “Gang of Six” plan may have worked — but only if Warner was willing to do battle in his own caucus, which he wasn’t.
And when it came time to appoint members to a new supercommittee, which is tasked with finding more than $1 trillion in budget cuts before Christmas, Reid — never a fan of the Gang of Six plan -- did not appoint Warner.
Warner, known in Virginia for persuading Republican lawmakers to pass a budget that made record investments in core services by imposing higher taxes, had made no secret of wanting to be on the committee.
“Warner was given the back of Reid’s hand on this debt thing,’’ Cuccinelli said. “He was out there playing himself as leader, leader, leader [and Reid said] Mark who?”
Cuccinelli said Warner--as well as former governor and senator George Allen, now a candidate for U.S. Senate--has had trouble moving from the governor’s mansion to Capitol Hill.
“You’re not making executive decisions,” he said. “It takes a different outlook. Perseverance becomes more important, instead of decisiveness.”
Cuccinelli said Warner’s voting record indicates that he may want to make another run at the White House — something he flirted with in the run-up to the 2008 election.
“His voting suggests he wants to keep that option open because he’s pandering to all those constituencies,’’ he said.
Cuccinelli, easily elected as part of a GOP sweep in 2009, has previously said he expects to run for re-election, though he would consider running for the gubernatorial nomination against Republican Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling in 2013 or U.S. Senate in 2014. He ruled out joining the crowded Republican primary for Senate next year to replace retiring Sen. Jim Webb (D).
“That’s our operating assumption,’’ Cuccinelli said. “That’s where we are. We just haven’t gotten off the track we got in March 2008.’’
Cuccinelli said he hasn’t spoke to Bolling about his future. Bolling, he said, has never asked..
In spring 2008, Bolling surprised people, including then-Attorney General Bob McDonnell, by deciding to seek reelection instead of running for governor. That allowed McDonnell and Bolling to run as a team for governor and lieutenant governor. McDonnell is supporting Bolling for governor in 2013.
Bolling’s gubernatorial committee had $676,766 in the bank as of June 30, while Cuccinelli's two committees — Ken Cuccinelli for Attorney General and Liberty Now — had a total of $444,000.
We’ll have more from our interview with Cuccinelli later this week.