WHEN YOUNG Republican patent attorney Ken Cuccinelli II first ran for public office in 2002, his campaign played hide-the-ball in an attempt to disguise his real agenda. “We won from the churches, on pro-life, and taxes — that was it, that was all we did,” Mr. Cuccinelli boasted four years later. “[We] told The Post we were talking about transportation. They bought it.”

In fact, The Post didn’t buy it. News reports in these pages recounted his focus on abortion and taxes, and the editorial page, noting his magical promise to improve roads and schools without raising new revenue, endorsed his opponent in the race for state Senate. Nevertheless, Mr. Cuccinelli won.

Now, as the GOP’s candidate for governor, Mr. Cuccinelli’s campaign has deployed a similar strategy of misdirection. The stakes this time are considerably greater; Virginians shouldn’t be fooled.

The home page of Mr. Cuccinelli’s campaign Web site invites visitors, in large print, to “Read Ken’s plan to create 58,000 new jobs in Virginia.” The plan itself — a massive cut to individual and business income taxes that Mr. Cuccinelli says will somehow be offset by eliminating tax loopholes and deductions, which he has not identified — is political fantasy, at best.

The larger point is that Mr. Cuccinelli’s interest in jobs and the economy is an 11th-hour political makeover, developed for electoral purposes, that bears no resemblance to the agenda he has pursued aggressively in public office for more than a decade. Mr. Cuccinelli did not become a hero to the tea party by accident; he earned that distinction with a sustained focus on conservative social issues. As a state senator, his motivating passions were God, guns, gays and abortion; as attorney general, he won notoriety mainly by fighting the Obama administration over health care and climate change.

As a public servant, core economic issues have been at the periphery of Mr. Cuccinelli’s concerns, and often beside the point. No economic challenge in the commonwealth was more critical than its failure, year after year, to provide the resources for a modern 21st-century infrastructure.

Yet when Gov. Robert F. McDonnell and House Speaker William J. Howell, both conservative Republicans, finally mounted a full-court press this year to devise a politically viable plan to pump billions of dollars into the state’s failing transportation network, Mr. Cuccinelli opposed it. Credit him at least with consistency; in the General Assembly, he also opposed every other realistic plan over the last decade that would have produced sustained funding for transportation.

Mr. Cuccinelli was not a jobs-first lawmaker. He wasn’t a jobs-first attorney general. And it is magical thinking to believe he would be a jobs-first governor. Despite his best efforts, there was no reason to be fooled about Mr. Cuccinelli’s real agenda in 2002. And there’s no reason to be fooled now.