By Dave Andrusko
Two very different reads on the gubernatorial contest between pro-life Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and pro-abortion Democratic operative Terry McAuliffe.
The good news for McAuliffe, although it will be fascinating to see how long it lasts, is that he has a 5 point lead in two recent polls. He is up 5 points in Washington Post-Abt SRBI poll among likely voters, 49% to 44% as he is in an NBC4/NBC News/Marist poll. 43% to 38%. Both are within the margin of error.
These presumably are the last polls before tomorrow night’s debate. Why might the debate make a difference?
For the very same reason the Richmond Times Dispatch ran a witheringly caustic editorial Sunday with a one-word headline: “Unserious.”
Understand that the Dispatch has zero love for Cuccinelli, but no one would ever describe him (as the Dispatch did of McAuliffe) as a man whose “troubling lack of mastery and odd flippancy combine to paint a portrait of a deeply unserious candidate.” Indeed, the editorial page seems to admire Cuccinelli’s deep knowledge, even if it likely would agree with few, if any, of his policy prescriptions.
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The editorial highlights three recent examples of McAuliffe glib, off-the-cuff responses to serious questions. In March the Virginia Pilot reported that
“in a recent interview, McAuliffe wouldn’t give specific responses when asked about technical aspects of legislative and governor’s office operations. Asked if he could name the positions in the governor’s Cabinet, for instance, McAuliffe said: ‘Maybe could, maybe couldn’t. That’s not what I’m going to do here today because that’s not what I’m talking about.” (The Pilot later endorsed him anyway.)
Then there was the endorsement of Cuccinelli by the Northern Virginia Technology Council which (supposedly) was McAuliffe’s to lose. The Dispatch quotes The Washington Post:
“Cuccinelli had detailed responses to questions in candidate interviews, three board members said, while McAuliffe was uninformed and superficial. . . . ‘Terry was his normal, flamboyant self,’ said a board member present for both interviews. ‘He didn’t want to get pinned down to any details. He didn’t give any details. He was all about jobs, jobs, jobs — “I’m just going to take care of the situation when the time comes. I’m just going to do it.” It was all [expletive].’ Cuccinelli, by contrast, the person said, ‘was precise. He was thoughtful. He thought through all the issues. He had a clear position on all those issues, and he didn’t agree with the council on all the issues.’””
The third example is a bizarre comment made by McAuliffe to the effect that he could, as governor, undo regulations which require abortion clinics to make commonsense safety upgrades (which the Dispatch loathes). Nonetheless, the editorial board observed, “Actually, he can’t. … [T]he governor cannot issue a ‘guidance opinion,’ a creature that apparently exists only in McAuliffe’s vivid imagination.”
McAuliffe brings new layers of meaning to the word shallow. We can rightly hope that the Virginia electorate sees that clearly by November 5.