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Va. Attorney General Cuccinelli's strategy looks good in light of ruling

Cuccinelli said he and the other state attorneys general share legal strategy; he spoke with Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum (R) on Monday after Hudson's ruling.

"I hope this builds momentum as we go forward to the Supreme Court," Cuccinelli said. "It's a big thing to rule against a major piece of legislation if you're a federal judge. That's not a small matter."

An early loss, he acknowledged, could have encouraged other judges to shy from similar findings: "Momentum can be created in more than one direction."

The attention paid to Cuccinelli's suit has frustrated those who think the federal law will ultimately be upheld. Andrew Koppelman, a professor of law at Northwestern University, contended that Hudson's ruling conflicts with decades of judicial interpretation of Congress's power.

"These are manifestly silly legal arguments," he said. "The fact that a federal judge has embraced them doesn't make them any less silly."

Cuccinelli could still lose the case on appeal. His suit could be overtaken by another challenge on the way to the Supreme Court, where the law's constitutionality will probably be decided. Or it could be consolidated with one or more other suits.

But the early win brought quick political spoils for Cuccinelli, 42, who took office nearly a year ago and has become one of Virginia's most visible and controversial attorneys general.

For two straight days, he was all over the national news circuit. He received a note of thanks from former House speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.).

Cuccinelli's political director, Noah Wall, would not say how much money was donated to the attorney general's political action committee in response to online advertising posted after the ruling.

Wall said the goal of the ads was not to raise money but to encourage supporters to sign a petition expressing support for the effort. By midday Tuesday, about 7,000 had signed up this week alone, joining 25,000 who had signed since the lawsuit was filed.

The online ads, which appeared on the Drudge Report among other Web spaces, drew criticism from those who think Cuccinelli is using the case to try to build a national political profile. He has said that he plans to run for reelection as attorney general in 2013 but has not ruled out a run for higher political office.

"It confirmed our suspicion that there are political motivations for the lawsuit," said Brian J. Moran, chairman of the Democratic Party of Virginia. "He's using our hard-earned Virginia taxpayer dollars to build his own reputation."

Cuccinelli said the advertising is designed to educate the public about his efforts. Those who sign the petition receive frequent, detailed updates from Cuccinelli about the suit's progress.

Over the summer, he conducted a lengthy presentation online about the case for supporters. He said his presentation is still being downloaded by the curious.

"There's a battle of ideas going on here," he said. "The formal battle is going on in court. There's also a battle for hearts and minds the citizenry. I'm trying to educate folks about why we're doing this."

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