“This is about as stark a choice as you could imagine — a choice between the Virginia way and the tea party way,” Biden said in his keynote speech.
McAuliffe also opened his speech with a slap at Republicans.
“The tea party ticket is focused on issues that divide Virginians: attacking voting rights, Planned Parenthood, gay Virginians, the Social Security that you paid into all your life, science and even yoga,” McAuliffe said, referring to a remark made by GOP lieutenant governor nominee E.W. Jackson linking yoga with Satan. “And yes, of course, they’re still questioning President Obama’s place of birth.”
McAuliffe — who has not held elective office but was chairman of the Democratic National Committee — said he would search for bipartisanship if he were elected governor.
“Cuccinelli said this election is about showing that conservatism isn’t dead. Well, I say this election is about creating jobs,” McAuliffe said.
Cuccinelli’s gubernatorial campaign dismissed the criticism. Days after Obama announced that his administration would take steps to reduce carbon dioxide from existing power plants and other sources to combat climate change, Republicans accused McAuliffe and Democrats of taking a position that threatens thousands of jobs in southwest Virginia’s coal country.
“With no economic plan or message to tout, Vice President Biden and Terry McAuliffe doubled down on an empty strategy of division and false attacks,” spokeswoman Anna Nix said in a written statement. “The Commonwealth has a clear choice: Ken Cuccinelli’s plan to keep taxes low, stand up for the middle class and move Virginia forward, or Terry McAuliffe’s embrace of the failed policies that have created significant burdens and uncertainty for families, job creators and workers.”
Polls have shown that Cuccinelli and McAuliffe are in a close race and that many voters find both candidates hard to like. Although several Democrats said they were pleased by the turnout for the $175-a-head annual dinner, remarks by several speakers also belied concerns about whether the coalition that twice gave Virginia to Obama would show up this November.
Before the dinner, according to a media pool report, Biden and McAuliffe dropped by Croaker’s Spot, a local restaurant where Biden snapped cellphone pictures with diners. At the convention center, more than 50 protesters, along with working models of windmills, demonstrated in opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline.
Inside, McAuliffe said he would focus on education, transportation and economic development. He received loud applause when he pledged to protect “women’s access to affordable health care” and work toward ensuring women receive equal pay for equal work.