In a slugfest on Saturday, Virginia gubernatorial candidates Ken Cuccinelli and Terry McAuliffe faced off. Most voters still aren’t  paying attention to the race, but the face-off gave us a good sense of where the race is heading:

Ken Cuccinelli (Steve Helber / Associated Press)

1. This is about each candidate’s flaws, not their policies. The Post noted: “Although McAuliffe and Cuccinelli have stark differences on policy, much of the debate focused on the personal — a preview of the largely negative, character-focused battle the two men will continue through November.”

2. McAuliffe is his own worst enemy, seemingly unable to stop exaggerating or even fabricating allegations. On the Star Scientific gift scandal, a problem for Cuccinelli turned into a McAuliffe stumble when he overreached. The Post cited the debate’s “most obvious misstep”:

Richmond Commonwealth’s Attorney Michael N. Herring (D) last week reported that he found no evidence Cuccinelli had violated the law when he failed to disclose his stock holdings in Star Scientific and gifts from its chief executive, Jonnie R. Williams Sr., the man at the center of the investigations of Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R).

“If you read the whole report, which I have, it says here that the attorney general should have been prosecuted,” McAuliffe stated incorrectly.

McAuliffe also claimed that because of Cuccinelli’s ties to Williams, “a judge took the case away from him because of a conflict of interest,”  referring to a civil tax case the company filed against the state. But Cuccinelli’s office requested recusal from the civil tax case.

3. Cuccinelli’s most successful attack at this stage is on McAuliffe’s slippery business record, which evinces no particular concern for the Commonwealth. (On locating McAuliffe’s GreenTech business: “Okay, you picked Mississippi, so run for governor of Mississippi.”)

4. McAuliffe’s hope rests with ginning up his base and convincing voters Cuccinelli is, as the Democrat claimed, a “Trojan’s horse” for an extreme social agenda.

5.  Cuccinelli, the small-government Republican, ironically attacks McAuliffe for his aggressive business activities while touting his own government experience, which won’t require a “little tour” of state government.

This is an odd race in which Virginians know relatively little about the two candidates, despite their national profiles, and what they will hear will be largely negative. That might turn off a lot of voters, leading to a low turnout election that theoretically will benefit Cuccinelli (off-year election voters in Virginia tend to be older, whiter and more conservative). At some point one of these guys will win, but the predominant attitude in the state so far can be summed up as: “Is this really the best Virginia can do?”