I’ve been tough on Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s gubernatorial campaign, primarily because it has been contentless. In the absence of any positive image he leaves himself open to attacks that he is ideological extreme. But he’s kept challenger Terry McAuliffe (just as inept a candidate as he was in 2009) on defense. And now Cuccinelli has come out with an almost perfect ad:
As I have argued many times, Republicans win when they can convince voters they understand them and are “fighting for them.” Here Cuccinelli does this as he marries that economic populism with a conservative mainstay: taxes.
The difficulty going forward for Cuccinelli is twofold, however. First, it’s not clear where the money for tax cuts is going to come from. Given the balanced-budget requirements, he’ll have to be a whole lot more specific about how he’s going to cut taxes without unbalancing the budget. (And frankly his predecessor has already cut out most of the waste, duplication and inefficiency.) Second, I’m not sure Virginians feel overtaxed. Taxes are lower in Virginia than in neighboring states, such as Maryland. Average voters’ concerns in the commonwealth focus on transportation, education and the middle-class squeeze (i.e. rising health care and college tuition with flat salaries). Cuccinelli will need to show that he’s going to address those issues.
It should be clear after two presidential elections that Virginia is a different state than it was, say, when George Allen was governor. It’s more politically moderate and more populated, especially in Northern Viriginia, where most of the voters are. Current Gov. Bob McDonnell has figured that out by conservative budget cutting when needed but also by funding and supporting those services that middle-class families want and need. To grow and continue to create jobs the state needs a first-class education and transportation system.
A state that now is home to a slew of new corporate headquarters (many from California) and is much more ethnically and politically diverse is going to have different needs than it did 20 years ago. Finding that sweet spot to rev up conservatives and yet appeal to moderates is Cuccinelli’s challenge. The ad is a good a start, but it’s just a start.