Wednesday’s gubernatorial debate between Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Ken Cuccinelli was filled with numerous negative attacks.
At Hotline, we put together a breakdown of the best jabs each candidate delivered, and what they mean for the final six weeks of the race.
Cuccinelli: “Governor is not a good entry-level job.”
Cuccinelli’s campaign focused on a new message this month on McAuliffe’s governing inexperience. While Cuccinelli has served in state government since 2002, McAuliffe has never held elective office before. And after an influential business PAC endorsed Cuccinelli over McAuliffe, the Republican sought to play himself up as the candidate with the right resume to be governor. Later in the debate, Cuccinelli pointed out that McAuliffe wouldn’t be able to “sign” same-sex marriage legislation as he had just promised, informing his opponent that such a change would have to be passed through ballot measure and okayed by the voters, not the governor. He later added: “Unlike my opponent, I do my homework.”
McAuliffe: “He has pushed personhood legislation, which would outlaw most forms of contraception, [and] would make the pill illegal in Virginia.”
McAuliffe holds a 24-point lead among women voters, according to a Washington Post poll released this week, and he exploited that advantage Wednesday night. McAuliffe brought up Cuccinelli’s stance on women’s issues, including contraception and the Violence Against Women Act no fewer than three times in the hour-long debate.
Cuccinelli: “We’re going to have to change the state’s motto from ‘Sic Semper Tyrannis’ to ‘Quid Pro Quo’”
Cuccinelli has been pushing the message that McAuliffe is a wheeler and dealer who’s more concerned about his own bottom line than Virginia’s. The line was snappy and reinforced a major campaign argument.
McAuliffe: “I stand by everything I have done in my life.”
McAuliffe offered that answer when asked whether votes would be able to trust him on issues of ethics, given some of the questions surrounding his business dealings and former political work. The quote was surprising from a candidate who has come under so much scrutiny in this campaign for his work with GreenTech Automotive, which is currently under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Department of Homeland Security. McAuliffe didn’t mention GreenTech by name at all in the debate, even after Cuccinelli specifically brought it up, but this was his strongest defense of his work there to date.
Cuccinelli: “Terry sold more visas to Chinese citizens as part of GreenTech than his failed company has sold cars.”
Facing ethics questions of his own, it was important for Cuccinelli to raise McAuliffe’s own questionable business history last night. The SEC and DHS are currently investigating whether GreenTech was given special treatment when applying for visas for Chinese investors because of McAuliffe’s political connections. That McAuliffe built plants for GreenTech in Mississippi and China — not Virginia — and has yet to produce a single automobile has been central to attack ads by Cuccinelli’s campaign and Republican outside groups. It also cuts into McAuliffe’s attempts to paint himself as a successful businessman who has the experience to create jobs for the Commonwealth. Of course, Cuccinelli’s campaign has been using similar lines since the early days of the race and McAuliffe continues to lead in the polls.