The slugfest for Virginia governor between Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Ken Cuccinelli came to an end Tuesday, as the nation watched to see whether swing-state voters would embrace a candidate tied to President Obama or a champion of the tea party.
McAuliffe won the race, defeating Cuccinelli in a surprisingly close victory, by about two percentage points, with 99 percent of precincts reporting.
According to Fox News exit polls, the surprising closeness of the race can be attributed – in part – to the disastrous roll-out of Obamacare. Virginia voters in general oppose Obamacare by a margin of 53 to 45 percent, according to exit polls. Of those who oppose the law, 80 percent voted for Cuccinelli and 11 percent voted for McAuliffe.
McAuliffe was elected to a one-term limited office, four years after voters elected conservative Republican Bob McDonnell.
The race also included libertarian Robert Sarvis, and pre-election public opinion polls showed him pulling support from Cuccinelli.
“At a time when Washington was often broken, just think about what Virginia was able to accomplish when we work together,” McAuliffe said in his victory speech Tuesday night. “”Over the next three months, I’m going to work hard to reach out to every single Republican in the General Assembly.”
Video of Terry McAuliffe’s victory speech:
Surveys of voters as they left their polling places showed the economy was the top issue for Virginia voters, followed by health care. One in five called abortion the top issue, according to the exit poll conducted for the Associated Press and TV networks.
As with all elections, turnout was key. The two campaigns were hoping to drive 40 percent or more of registered voters to the polls. The state board of elections said the number of absentee ballots cast was up by one-third over 2009.
The state’s two U.S. senators are Democrats.
Cuccinelli saw a late-game rally and was propped up by big-name supporters, including Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal – all considered potential presidential contenders.
Video of Ken Cuccinelli’s concession speech:
But the race turned McAuliffe’s way last month when the Democrat effectively used the government shutdown to link Cuccinelli to House Republicans in Washington and the tea party.
Obamacare became the top issue for Cuccinelli in the race.
In an op-ed column published in Politico Monday, Cuccinelli portrayed the election as a referendum on Obamacare.
“Virginia can send Washington a message that we oppose Obamacare with our votes on Tuesday,” he wrote.
“Virginians who oppose Obamacare can vote for me, and Virginians who want to see Obamacare grow further can vote for McAuliffe.”
While campaigning Monday for Cuccinelli, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said, “This is the first chance for people to speak clearly at the ballot box about the impact this law is having on their lives and on our economy.”
“That health care law will only get worse,” he added. “The website is just the tip of the iceberg.”
President Obama seemed to be running away from his own health-care law, not even mentioning Obamacare once during his entire 21-minute speech while campaigning for McAuliffe Sunday.
Referring to the shutdown, McAuliffe said, “He (Cuccinelli) stood with the tea party and not with Virginia families.”
“Can you even imagine if Ted Cruz, Ken Cuccinelli and the tea party ran the Virginia government?” he wondered.
The president literally tried to scare up votes for his candidate, telling supporters, “Nothing makes me more nervous than when my supporters start feeling too confident, so I want to put the fear of God in all of you,” Obama said.
And campaigning for McAuliffe Monday, Vice President Joe Biden tried to paint Cuccinelli’s traditional values as old fashioned, warning that tea-party views are “out of the ’30s and ’40s and ’50s.”
As WND reported, talk-radio giant Rush Limbaugh believes there is a strong possibility the GOP establishment will celebrate Cuccinelli’s defeat.
“I think there’s very little doubt that the Republican Party is not happy with its base – tea party and conservatives.”
Limbaugh wondered why establishment figures in the Republican Party have an aversion to tea partiers within the GOP.
“Why should we be afraid of the tea party? What has the tea party been wrong about yet?” asked Limbaugh.
“The real curiosity here … and it’s a genuine stumbling block. It’s a real mystery why do the Republicans not want to win? Because it sure doesn’t seem like they do, does it?”
He said people on the political right are “curious to know why it’s more important for the Republicans to force the tea party to lose than it is for the Democrats to lose. That’s really what they don’t get. Why do the Republicans want their own base to lose before they want the Democrats to lose, when all the tea party wants is for Democrats to lose?
“If there’s a puzzlement, if there’s anything that people don’t get is why in the world does the Republican Party act so threatened by people who want to beat Democrats? That really sums it up. What in the world is so threatening about that? The tea party wants to beat Democrats.”
Limbaugh personally interviewed Cuccinelli earlier this year for his magazine and said he was “impressed” by him.
“This guy is fearless. He was a real man. He was confident, and 100 percent conservative. There wasn’t any RINO (Republican in Name Only) about this guy. I felt really good about it. Then I’m watching this campaign, I see McAuliffe up by double digits, and I know what kind of games they played with polls.
Limbaugh went on to describe McAuliffe as a “placeholder for the real agents of power that are gonna run the state, fundraise and everything that that entails.”
Limbaugh was alluding to President Obama and the Democrats’ big guns who campaigned for McAuliffe.
Obama campaigned with him Sunday, Vice President Joe Biden stumped for him Monday and Bill and Hillary Clinton each made appearances with him.
McAuliffe is the ultimate Clinton insider, having had a long personal and political relationship with the couple, including serving as co-chairman of President Clinton’s 1996 re-election campaign.
The leftist website Counterpunch called McAuliffe the Clintons’ “chief emissary” whose “implacable loyalty” was amply rewarded in 2001.
That’s when “Bill Clinton engineered the ouster of Joe Andrew as head of the DNC and installed McAuliffe … as the chief of the party. As the head of the DNC, McAuliffe was now in a position to protect the Clintons’ legacy, reward loyalists, punish party dissidents and select the next presidential nominee.”
Back in 2004, the website claimed, “Terry McAuliffe didn’t just use his business contacts to fatten the accounts of the Democratic National Committee; he also deftly exploited them to inflate his own fortune, which now nudges toward nine figures.”
The Washington Post called McAuliffe “a Washington insider who got rich as he rose to power within the Democratic Party” and “even called himself a ‘huckster’ in his autobiography.”
And McAuliffe has been at the center of several major scandals, but has never been charged with any wrongdoing.
As WND has documented, McAuliffe’s past scandals include:
- Invested $100 and made millions in real estate
- Teamsters money-cycling scheme
- Buddhist temple fundraiser
- Sold face-time with the Clintons
- Rented the Lincoln bedroom
- Made $18 million on a failed fiber-optics company
McAuliffe’s current scandals involve a company named GreenTech.
“In a nutshell, McAuliffe’s company, GreenTech Automotive, an electric car company, is under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission,” summarized Kenric Ward, a reporter for Watchdog.org.
Ward said another investigation involves Alejandro Mayorkas, the director of the head of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, who is under investigation by the inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security.
“It’s probably fair to say McAuliffe is not a ‘target,’ but you can’t say that for certain because you may not know that you’re a target of an investigation until a subpoena lands in your hands.”
Perhaps as a result of the reporting on the numerous scandals, McAuliffe’s poll numbers dropped as the campaign drew to a close. Democrats’ then turned to stunning election-eve dirty tricks according to a Virginia lawmaker.
Even as voters were going to the polls Tuesday, Democrats were reportedly making robo-calls to voters in Virginia and claiming Cuccinelli supports Obamacare, even though the Republican was the first attorney general in the country to file a lawsuit against the health-care law.
Scott Lingamfelter, a Republican member of the Virginia House of Delegates, said he received a robo-call on Sunday making the claim.
He also said the call claimed vehemently pro-life Cuccinelli supported taxpayer financing for abortions.
“They are shameless in their lies,” he wrote on his Facebook page.
“I guess they are trying to suppress GOP voters,” Lingamfelter concluded.
Lingamfelter said the recording announced it was paid for by the Democratic Party of Virginia.
Virginia’s election could also hold clues for tactics that might work in the 2014 election, especially in U.S. Senate races in Kentucky, Georgia and West Virginia where tea-party candidates are challenging mainstream Republicans in primaries and Democrats are eager to take on weakened opponents.
The race also had implications for 2016. Obama won Virginia in both 2008 and 2012, and McAuliffe’s victory would seem to position Democrats to continue the trend in a state that was once a Republican stronghold.