Republicans have all eyes on Obenshain

Posted at 3:52 PM, Nov 01, 2013

EDITOR’S NOTE: This semester has partnered with VCU’s School of Mass Communications “iPadJournos” mobile and social media journalism project. Students from the project reported the following story.

RICHMOND, Va. – As Republican candidates Ken Cuccinelli and E.W. Jackson have been trailing their opponents, Republicans across Virginia are looking to Mark Obenshain to secure at least one statewide office against a possible sweep by Democrats next Tuesday.

Cuccinelli trails his opponent Terry McAuliffe by seven percentage points in the latest poll by Christopher Newport University, Jackson is behind by 16 points against his opponent Ralph Northam in the race for lieutenant governor.

Obenshain, on the other hand, still leads by two points against Democrat Mark Herring. CBS 6 political analyst Bob Holsworth thinks Obenshain’s advertising strategies are helping his campaign.

“What Obenshain recognizes is that this campaign for attorney general doesn’t get much oxygen when there’s this high-profile, big dollar gubernatorial campaign going on,” said Holsworth. “He’s trying to just humanize himself and present himself and his family to the public in his ads.”

Because Cuccinelli and Jackson are still trailing their opponents, Obenshain has received large donations from national Republican groups.

Obenshain reported $1.3 million in donations between last Thursday and Monday. Cuccinelli only received $147,000, according to the Virginia Public Access Project. The financial support for Obenshain comes with hopes for at least one victory for the party.

While other candidates in both parties have aired a steady stream of attack ads, Obenshain mostly avoided such tactics. It appears to be benefiting his chances of being elected.

Because of the success of Obenshain’s ads that defend his record and put a spotlight on his daughter Tucker, Holsworth believes that Democrats must continue to shed light on Obenshain’s political past and the similarities between him and Cuccinelli, if they want to win.

“Obenshain has a background as both a fiscal and a social conservative. Democrats believe that Cuccinelli’s background as a social conservative could be a lightning rod in this campaign,” said Holsworth.

Herring has continuously criticized Obenshain’s conservative viewpoints in TV spots.

“Democrats are hitting this argument again and again, trying to find a way so they can recapture this office,” said Holsworth.

Geoffrey Skelley, associate editor of Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia, recognizes the inevitable criticism between a same party incumbent and a candidate.

“No matter what you do, you’ll always be compared to people from the same party as you,” said Skelley. “In our view, this seems to be the race that is closest.”

Comparing Obenshain to Cuccinelli has come into play with a series of commercials paid for by Planned Parenthood. The abortion-rights group is prepared to spend $100,000 on commercials in Richmond and Norfolk before Election Day. The ads claim that Obenshain is “just as extreme” as Cuccinelli.

Despite the TV ad push from both campaigns, many voters do not seem to be too familiar with the candidates for attorney general. Richmond resident Julie Mayglothling said that she does not support Cuccinelli, but thinks that she has still more research to do about the candidates for attorney general.

“I know a little more more about the Republican candidate,” said Mayglothling. “As much as I don’t agree with his views, he seems to be the more qualified candidate.”

Richmond resident William Harriman also said that he is not too familiar with the candidates.

“To tell you the truth, I don’t really know much about it. I work so much and there is not much media or information getting through to me,” Harriman said.

The campaigns for Obenshain and Herring did not answer requests for interviews for this story.

By Sam Haywood and Niki Farahmand (Special to

This story was reported by the “iPadJournos” mobile and social media journalism project, a cooperation between and VCU’s School of Mass Communications.