The federal government shutdown seems to be substantially hurting Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli as Election Day draws closer.
Terry McAuliffe, Cuccinelli’s Democratic opponent, leads by nine percentage points, according to poll results released today by the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University. This finding followed a Politico survey that also showed McAuliffe with a nine-point lead.
The best explanation for McAuliffe’s surge seems to be that Virginians are angry at the impasse over the federal budget, which has furloughed hundreds of thousands of workers, many of them in Virginia.
Happenstance is a big factor in the tight race. Cuccinelli seemed to have gotten some luck a few weeks ago when prosecutors and lawyers for Todd Schneider, Gov. Robert F. McDonnell’s former executive chef, agreed to a plea agreement that kept him from going on trial on embezzlement charges just a couple of weeks before Election Day.
A trial could have embarrassed Cuccinelli, who has been linked to the same gift-giving scandal that has tied together Schneider, businessman Jonnie R. Williams, McDonnell and his wife Maureen. McDonnell and his wife still face federal and state probes for accepting gifts and loans from Williams. Cuccinelli likewise accepted gifts from Williams but was cleared of any wrongdoing by a prosecutor.
But what should have been a good period for Cuccinelli to win over undecided voters soured when recalcitrant conservative Republicans in the House of Representatives provoked another game of chicken in an attempt to delay the Affordable Care Act. The result has been a government shutdown and the continuing threat of a possible breach of the federal debt ceiling, which some believe would be economically catastrophic.
These issues are beyond the ken of Cuccinelli, of course, but they serve to bring the spotlight back to his hardline views, which he has sought to downplay during the campaign. Cuccinelli has fought President Obama’s health reform law, attacked Washington as the root of most evil and sought Tea Party approval as a small government, contrarian politician.
Just in time for the election, his past is haunting him. Over the weekend, he reluctantly appeared with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who helped mastermind the government shutdown and is costing him support. The U.S. Supreme Court has rebuffed his latest pointless attempt to keep a state law against sodomy.
Even his play to cast new rules restricting carbon dioxide emissions as an attack on coal-fired electricity plants seems to be backfiring. A recent poll by Public Policy Polling and Harper Polling show that 45 percent of Virginians surveyed support the new rules, compared with only 33 percent who are opposed.
Time is running short for Cuccinelli. He needs a major offensive against McAuliffe but one doesn’t seem in the offing. His future lies in the hands of right-wing members of Congress. They should be his biggest allies but now could destroy his candidacy.