Virginia governor’s election framed as race against the tea party

Posted at 3:58 PM, Nov 04, 2013
(CNN) — Campaigning for Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic nominee in Virginia’s gubernatorial race, Vice President Joe Biden depicted Republican nominee Ken Cuccinelli as a puppet of the tea party and framed the race as a referendum on the conservative grassroots movement, one day before voters head to the polls on Election Day.

“I’m not just here for Terry. I’m not just here because I’m a Democrat. I’m here because this race matters well beyond the state of Virginia,” Biden said Monday at a campaign event in Annandale, Virginia.

“It’s the first major race between the forces and faces of the new Republican tea party, a tea party whose social recidivism is outdone only by its hostility to science and technology, innovation and scholarship,” he continued.

A new Quinnipiac poll released Monday showed McAuliffe, a former Democratic National Committee chairman, ahead of Cuccinelli, the commonwealth’s attorney general, by six percentage points, 46%-40%.

While Cuccinelli has strong support among grassroots conservatives, he has struggled to unite the Republican base. The new poll shows only 85% of the GOP backs Cuccinelli, while 93% of Democrats support McAuliffe.

Biden argued the tea party’s motto should be “back to the future” and their goal is to undo progress. As for Cuccinelli himself, the vice president said the attorney general “has views that are completely antitheses to where this country has to go.”

While Democrats are trying to make the race about the tea party, Cuccinelli’s campaign and supporters argue the contest is more of a referendum on the federal health care law, as it undergoes a rocky roll-out this fall.

The vice president also hammered Cuccinelli on women’s issues and his support of legislation that critics argue lead to restrictions against abortion and some forms of birth control. Democrats have zeroed in on the topic during the campaign, but Cuccinelli maintains he has never gone after personal choices about contraception.

Regardless, polls indicate a significant gender gap among likely women voters, a crucial voting bloc in Virginia. According to the Quinnipiac poll, 50% of women back McAuliffe, while 36% support Cuccinelli.

As the author of the Violence Against Women Act, Biden harpooned Cuccinelli for not signing a letter of support to reauthorize the legislation.

Cuccinelli’s campaign says the attack, which has been used before to paint Cuccinelli as weak on women’s issues, is unfair. His website states it’s the attorney general office’s policy not to sign letters with a position on legislation, “regardless of the subject.”

Combating the attacks, Cuccinelli points to his record of devoting staff to fight human trafficking and “protect women from entering into forced sexual servitude,” his website states. It also highlights a national program he started in college of student-to-student sexual assault prevention, called “S.A.F.E.”

Biden on Monday strongly urged supporters to get out the vote for McAuliffe, warning “there’s only one place the tea party can compete with us and that is they do turn out their base.”

“Don’t be one of those people who worked all this time to elect Terry and this ticket — don’t be going to bed on Tuesday night thinking, ‘If I had knocked on 10 more doors, if I had knocked on 20 more doors, if I had taken 5 more people to the polls.’ You don’t want to be there and you can’t let the nation get there,” he added.

The vice president was the latest high profile figure to campaign for McAuliffe. President Barack Obama, former President Bill Clinton, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have also hit the trail for the Democrat.

Also Monday, Cuccinelli has a high profile guest of his own when former Rep. Ron Paul, a three-time presidential candidate who has a strong following among Libertarian voters, campaigns for the Attorney General at a rally in Richmond.

Tuesday night’s winner will succeed Republican incumbent Gov. Bob McDonnell, who’s not running for re-election because Virginia’s governors are not allowed to serve consecutive terms.

CNN’s Chloe Sommers contributed to this report.

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