Cuccinelli linked McAuliffe to the troubled rollout of the new federal health-care law — an effort to reclaim an anti-Washington mantle that slipped away during a government shutdown blamed largely on Republicans. McAuliffe likened Cuccinelli’s no-compromise positions to the politics that caused the shutdown.
“Just this week he refused to say whether he supported reopening government,” McAuliffe said, referring to Cuccinelli’s comment that he wasn’t sure how he would have voted on the spending deal that ended the federal shutdown.
Countered Cuccinelli: “Terry not only supported Obamacare, he didn’t think it went far enough,” Cuccinelli said. “Can you imagine?”
With McAuliffe consistently leading in the polls, Cuccinelli sought to play the aggressor onstage at Virginia Tech in an effort to regain momentum in his final appearance before a statewide audience. There was no dramatic moment likely to change the trajectory of the race.
The debate was sponsored by the university and the Roanoke television station WDBJ.
“Terry McAuliffe literally did nothing for Virginia or Virginians before deciding to run for governor. Nothing,” Cuccinelli said at the debate’s start.
Instead, Cuccinelli said, “My opponent’s plan has been to attack me and scare Virginians — especially women — into voting for him; to speak in platitudes.”
Cuccinelli repeatedly returned to what he described as a lack of substance in McAuliffe’s policy blueprints, and he accused him of making promises he couldn’t back up.
“Those are platitudes. They’re not plans,” Cuccinelli said. “I like those too. I like education. I like puppies. But I don’t bring a puppy home if I don’t have a plan for how I’m going to deal with that puppy. ... And he’ s all puppy and no plan.”
From the start, McAuliffe called himself someone “who will work with both parties to focus on jobs and education.” Cuccinelli, he said, “has become increasingly desperate” and has lobbed “false attacks.”
McAuliffe frequently cited endorsements by Republicans as evidence that Cuccinelli is too extreme for Virginia — and that McAuliffe would work across the aisle.
“Compromise is not a bad word. My opponent will not compromise,” McAuliffe said.
Cuccinelli cited past instances where he had made deals — including on transportation and abortion — but noted others where he wouldn’t.