Schwerin, McAuliffe’s spokesman, countered that Cuccinelli’s campaign is “lashing out” because the Republican “is having a difficult time earning strong support within his own party.”
Risks from the left?
Democrats say McAuliffe’s previous roles in the Democratic Party required him to serve as a partisan spokesman. As governor, McAuliffe’s allies say, he knows he would need to work with Republicans.
“He’s in a totally different role, and he realizes that if you’re going to succeed, you have to get along with everyone,” state Sen. Richard L. Saslaw (D-Fairfax) said. “And Terry has the personality to do that.”
Reinvention and rebranding are rites of American politics, as Richard Nixon demonstrated when, before the 1968 New Hampshire primary, his presidential campaign ran an advertisement asking, “Is there a ‘new Nixon?’ ” When George H.W. Bush spoke of a “kinder and gentler nation,” he could have been referring to himself.
In McAuliffe’s case, the roles he has adopted are not necessarily in conflict, Rappaport said. “Even though McAuliffe was the Democrats’ attack dog, he wasn’t an ideologue. You don’t identify him with the left wing of the Democratic Party. He’s making a stylistic claim more than an ideological claim.”
By calling attention to his Republican support and portraying himself as non-ideological, McAuliffe risks alienating progressives, some of whom he has already irked by switching his position to favor offshore drilling.
But Democrats say McAuliffe remains safe as long as he does not alter his positions on social issues. His best ammunition may be calling attention to what they describe as the extreme views espoused by Cuccinelli and Jackson.
“If progressive voters can’t get motivated to get off their butts and to the polls, then I give up,” said Lowell Feld, a blogger for the liberal Web site “Blue Virginia.” “We might as well fold up the Democratic Party.”