Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal came to battleground Prince William County Tuesday to try to lift up the lagging gubernatorial campaign of Republican Ken Cuccinelli II.
“Ken is a principled leader,” Jindal told a crowded room of supporters in a storefront in Bristow. “You’ve got a clear choice in this election,” he told the crowd.
Jindal’s attacks on Obamacare drew the biggest applause.
“This election is important for the future of Virginia,” said Jindal. “But it’s also important for our country.”
A series of polls show Cuccinelli lagging behind Democrat Terry McAuliffe in the race for Virginia governor — including a new Washington Post/Abt SRBI poll released this week that gives McAuliffe a 12-point lead. Cuccinelli acknowledged as much Tuesday.
“We’ve been outspent,” he admitted. But the state attorney general insisted that the fight is not over — and Jindal stood beside him to make the same point.
“This is going to be close,” Cuccinelli said. Young people circulated with volunteer signup sheets, and Cuccinelli encouraged everyone to get out and knock on doors.
Cuccinelli’s campaign has been hurt partly because his views are seen as too extreme by many Virginians — and because McAuliffe has spent millions hammering that point home in a biting TV advertising campaign. Cuccinelli has also struggled to overcome his connection to the decreasingly popular tea party movement that helped fuel the partial shutdown of the federal government. In some cases, he hasn’t tried: Cuccinelli has campaigned with U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Rep. Ted Cruz of Texas — two architects of the shutdown.
The appearance Tuesday by Jindal may have represented a last-ditch attempt to broaden Cuccinelli’s appeal; he is a more moderate Republican of Indian descent who is widely seen as helpful to the GOP’s efforts to appear less extreme and more inclusive.
The message, though, was unchanged.
Both Jindal and Cuccinelli described the race as an important step in a broader challenge to President Obama's leadership. “I’m kind of glad the president is coming to campaign for my opponent,” Cuccinelli said, pitting himself not just against McAuliffe but against Obama as well.
Cuccinelli complained that McAuliffe’s campaign ads were filled with lies, and in a reference to McAuliffe’s effort to characterize Cuccinelli as hostile to women’s reproductive rights, he told his supporters: “We need you all to defeat those lies, especially the ladies in here.”
Men and women applauded while children darted between the legs of onlookers. Many in the room had already put in hours knocking on doors or calling up potential voters. Some groaned at the mention of the Affordable Care Act and applauded when Cuccinelli recounted his early legal challenges to the legislation. “It wasn’t about healthcare,” he said, “It was about liberty.”
“If you believe in limited government,” said Cuccinelli, “I am your candidate in this race.”
Before the crowd returned to their cars in the crowded shopping center parking lot, Cuccinelli told them to think of him as they’re watching ESPN or Fox in the coming days. “I want you to hear this little voice in the back of your heads,” he said and whispered into the microphone, “You should be making calls.”
As the audience filtered out, volunteers dismantled the makeshift platform and returned to the phones.