As a result, he said, a Virginian is not nearly as simple to define as, say, a denizen of Vermont. Yet, Republicans are pushing McAuliffe as an outsider, he said, because the campaign “is already notable for its negativity. We’re talking about October-level hostility, and it’s only May.”
“Both candidates are looking for anything they can possibly say that will undermine the opposition,” Farnsworth said.
Even within Republican circles, disagreement exists over whether to make an issue out of McAuliffe’s ties to Virginia.
Boyd Marcus, a Republican political consultant who advises Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, said McAuliffe’s relationship with former president Bill Clinton and his history as a national Democratic operative are more fruitful targets.
“He has gone through a lot of Democratic and nonpartisan meetings over the past four years,” Marcus said. “He has been around the state. He stayed after he lost.”
Among the first to cast McAuliffe as a political interloper were his fellow Democrats, including Brian Moran, with whom he competed for the party’s nomination in 2009. At the time, Moran told a reporter that there was “no reason to perceive” McAuliffe “as a Virginia Democrat.”
“He’s had little involvement — if any — not only in Virginia politics but in Virginia governance,” he said then.
Moran laughed when reminded of his past criticism of McAuliffe. “Four years ago was different,” he said, explaining that McAuliffe had recently left the Democratic National Committee. “He has worked extremely hard to dispel any concerns that people might have regarding his Virginia connections.”
In recent months, Cuccinelli’s campaign has seized on McAuliffe’s fundraising trips to revisit past speculation over his purported interest in running for governor in Florida or New York, despite no hard evidence of his seriousness.
A tweet posted recently by Cuccinelli’s campaign described McAuliffe as “the out-of-state candidate, with out-of-state money.”
When McAuliffe attended a fundraiser in Upstate New York, Cuccinelli's Web site said, “After contemplating a bid to become the governor of New York — his home state — Terry McAuliffe instead decided to just milk his Syracuse pals to fund his gubernatorial campaign in Virginia.”
Schwerin, McAuliffe’s campaign spokesman, said in an e-mail that “over the years, some friends asked him to consider” running for governor elsewhere. But, Schwerin added, “Virginia is where he’s raised his family for 21 years and where he wants his children to stay.”