RICHMOND — Ken Cuccinelli II hammered Terry McAuliffe Thursday for investing with a Rhode Island estate planner who prosecutors say preyed on terminally ill people, while McAuliffe accused Cuccinelli of misrepresenting his position on abortion.

The bitter rivals in the Virginia governor’s race made back-to-back appearances at the University of Richmond, where each found new ways to attack the other on well-worn themes.

Cuccinelli, a Republican and the state attorney general, has raised questions about McAuliffe’s business record throughout the campaign. He made that charge anew by seizing on a federal criminal case in which the Democrat’s name had surfaced just the day before.

And McAuliffe, who has pressed the idea that Cuccinelli is too socially conservative to lead the increasingly purple state, said the attorney general had soft-pedaled his views on abortion in response a question that night from University of Richmond President Edward L. Ayers.

“Yesterday in Rhode Island, a Democrat prosecutor’s indictment demonstrated for the first time that Terry McAuliffe was investing in insurance instruments that banked on terminally ill people dying,” Cuccinelli said. “You can’t make this stuff up.”

McAuliffe, the former Democratic National Committee chairman and entrepreneur, said he was a “passive investor” with Joseph A. Caramadre, who has been charged with using the stolen identities of terminally ill people to defraud insurers of millions.

There has been no indication that McAuliffe or the dozens of other investors were in on the alleged scheme to steal identities. But Cuccinelli, citing comments made by Caramadre’s former lawyer, said that investors were aware that they were betting on the deaths of strangers by investing in annuities that offered death benefits.

“Everybody knew what they were investing in,” Cuccinelli said, coming back to the theme, unbidden, during a gathering with reporters after the hour-long program. “My opponent invested in people dying.”

McAuliffe told reporters afterward: “I was a passive investor in a life insurance annuity pool.”

McAuliffe began his own gathering with reporters by declaring that Cuccinelli had shifted his position on abortion during the forum.

“Tonight Ken Cuccinelli deliberately misled the Virginia voters,” McAuliffe said. “He said tonight that he supports public financing for abortions in the case of rape. We know that this man has spent his entire career opposing abortions even in the case of rape and incest. And tonight he sat in this chair and went against everything he has fought for his entire career.”

McAuliffe was referring to a comment Cuccinelli made related to Medicaid funding for abortions.

“The one issue you deal with every year is Medicaid funding,” he said. “Comes up in every budget in every year. And my opponent has put no limits on the use of your taxpayers dollars. We’ll do that in rape, incest or life of the mother, but that’s it.”

As attorney general and a state senator before that, Cuccinelli has firmly opposed abortion except when the life of the mother is endangered by the pregnancy. His campaign said he was merely stating what abortions Medicaid funds under existing law, not voicing his personal support for abortions in cases of rape or incest.