Republicans said the surge of attention and money flowing into Obenshain’s campaign is a reflection of the long odds Ken Cuccinelli II (R) now faces against Terry McAuliffe (D) in the Virginia governor’s race.
Some Republicans at Wednesday’s fundraiser counted Cuccinelli out already. But others repeated the mantra that the election is all about who shows up on Nov. 5. With voters in an ill mood about their government and the negative tone of the gubernatorial race, several said they expected record low numbers of voters on Tuesday.
“This is not about issues. It’s about turnout,” Del. James M. LeMunyon (R-Fairfax) said.
Polls show McAuliffe leading Cuccinelli by margins of 4 percent to 15 percent, while Obenshain (Harrisonburg) and state Sen. Mark R. Herring (D-Loudoun County) have been running neck and neck. A Washington Post-SRBI poll this week found Herring had a three-point lead over Obenshain, within the poll’s margin of error.
This election is also the first in which a downballot candidate has raised more money in the first five days of preelection reporting than the person at the top of the ticket, according to an update by the Virginia Public Access Project. The nonprofit’s records show Obenshain received $1.3 million in that period, compared with $147,000 for Cuccinelli. Overall, Obenshain has raised $4,951,603, compared with Herring’s $3,118,692, VPAP says.
Wednesday’s fundraiser was also an occasion for political nostalgia. Former Republican U.S. senator John W. Warner, leaning on a cane, stood side by side with Andrew P. Miller, a Democrat whom Warner defeated in 1978, to talk about the days when they stood atop apple crates and engaged in gentlemanly campaign debate. As they told it, there was nothing of the bitterness on display this year, especially between Cuccinelli and McAuliffe.
“As you look at the two of us, it’s the symbolism of how this nation – the oldest continuously functioning constitutional republic on earth -- that’s how we function,” Warner said. “ [It’s] the strength of two parties together, and after the election, joined together to do what’s best for the state.”
They also talked about work by Obenshain’s late father, Richard D. Obenshain, to build Virginia’s Republican Party. Warner recalled meeting with Mark Obenshain’s mother after the August 1978 plane crash that killed her husband while he was campaigning for the U.S. Senate. Warner received her blessing and his party’s nomination to replace Richard Obenshain on the ticket and went on to win the first of five terms in Congress.