Then Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), speaks with her campaign chairman, Terry McAuliffe after boarding the campaign plane in Washington, May 13, 2008, enroute to Charleston, W.Va. (Elise Amendola/AP)

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe, who blasted his Republican rival this week for comparing abortion to slavery, kept silent about a slavery analogy Hillary Rodham Clinton made years ago when he was her campaign chairman.

In the midst of her failed bid for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, Clinton compared her push to seat Michigan and Florida delegates to the work of abolitionists. McAuliffe was asked as campaign chairman about her remarks on national television, as the Web site Washington Free Beacon brought to light this week under the headline,“McAuliffe Supported Slavery Comparisons Before He Opposed Them.”

McAuliffe did not defend Clinton’s comparison on TV, but he did not take issue with it, either. Instead, he ducked the question.

“This week, Senator Clinton compared the decision to strip Florida and Michigan of all of their delegates to slavery, to the election in Zimbabwe where a dictator is trying to hold on to power, to the [2000 presidential election] recount in Florida,” Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace said. “Does she really see parallels there?”

McAuliffe responded: “What she sees is 2.5 million people who went to polls, who voted, who were certified at the county and at the state level. We are not a nation of 48 states. We’re a nation of 50 states.”

McAuliffe’s silence on Clinton’s slavery analogy became an issue this week after his campaign and the Democratic Party spent days hammering Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II (R) for likening the fight against abortion to the one against slavery.

Asked why McAuliffe objected to one slavery comparison but not the other, his campaign did not answer, responding instead with a comment about Cuccinelli’s opposition to abortion.

“Ken Cuccinelli’s comments reflect an entire career he has dedicated to an extreme and dangerous agenda of trying to make abortion illegal even in the cases of rape or incest and trying to limit birth-control access,” said McAuliffe spokesman Josh Schwerin.

Cuccinelli spokesman Jahan Wilcox said in an e-mail, “It should come as no surprise that Terry McAuliffe’s negative distorted attacks are rooted in hypocrisy.”

In 2008, as Clinton fought to have Michigan and Florida delegates seated, she compared herself to “the abolitionists and all who fought to end slavery.”

Cuccinelli made his own modern-day link to abolitionists in videotaped remarks to the conservative Family Foundation in June.

“Over time, the truth demonstrates its own rightness, and its own righteousness,” Cuccinelli said. “Our experience as a country has demonstrated that on one issue after another. Start right at the beginning — slavery. Today, abortion. History has shown us what the right position was, and those were issues that were attacked by people of faith aggressively to change the course of this country.”

McAuliffe objected strongly to Cuccinelli’s remarks in an e-mail, one of seven Democrats churned out on the topic over two days.

“Ken Cuccinelli’s comments comparing his efforts to make abortion illegal to the historic struggle against slavery in America have rightly offended many Virginians,” McAuliffe said. “His comments reflect a career-long focus on an extreme ideological agenda that has nothing to do with Virginians’ top concern: the economy. Politicians who constantly create controversy on divisive social issues harm Virginia’s standing as one of the best states for business.”