The Dirtiest, Nastiest, Low-Down Campaign In America: Cuccinelli vs. McAuliffe

While not all of the nastiness is the fault of the candidates, the race for Virginia governor has turned into the ugliest campaign in the country this year.

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Joe Mahoney / The Richmond Times-Dispatch / AP

From left: Ken Cuccinelli and Terry McAuliffe at a luncheon sponsored by the Virginia Public Access Project, in Richmond, Va., on May 30, 2013.

The campaigns of Republican Ken Cuccinelli and Democrat Terry McAuliffe, the two major candidates for Governor in Virginia this year, both claim to be focused on positive messages about growing the economy and creating jobs in the Old Dominion. But nobody believes them.

“It’s a race to the bottom,” said one Republican operative close to the Cuccinelli campaign, a feeling shared by McAuliffe aides as well. A poll released Wednesday by the Democrat-leaning Public Policy Polling found both candidates suffering from underwater favorability ratings. More Virginia voters have become undecided on the race over the past five months.

A day later, when both men spoke at a luncheon in Richmond about government transparency, they spent their time attacking each other. Cuccinelli challenged McAulliffe to 15 debates, instead of the agreed upon five, and demanded the Democrat release more tax records. McAulliffe harped on Cuccinelli’s failure to disclose gifts and stock holdings in a Virginia dietary supplement company. It was just another day in what is shaping up to be the ugliest campaign in the country this year.

Not all of the nastiness is the fault of the candidates. Both campaigns have been at the receiving end of two of the most brutal outside opposition research and attack efforts by dueling Super PACs: Democratic-leaning American Bridge and Republican-backing America Rising.

Brought about by the Citizens United decision, these independent operations are self-contained vetting, tracking, and communications teams ready to rain hell on candidates from the opposing party fueled by unlimited corporate and donor money. In the 2012 cycle, American Bridge was the first to circulate Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin’s comments about “legitimate rape.” Its Republican foil, America Rising, was founded earlier this year following the Republican National Committee’s autopsy into its 2012 electoral defeat finding it needed a permanent outside research arm.

Chris Harris, a senior advisor for American Bridge, disputed the notion that their attacks were negative. “Cuccinelli and Jackson have made their careers out of saying extremely offensive things so that makes our job easy,” he told TIME. “If it’s negative, it means voters are turned off by what they said. We’re just telling voters what they stand for.”

Tim Miller, the former Republican party spokesman and the executive director of America Rising, said the birth of outside research groups has allowed candidates to focus more on their positive messages and less on destroying the opposing candidate.  “It’s our job to go out there and make sure he [Terry McAuliffe] is held accountable for his serial exaggerating and his long record of being a DC partisan and party insider,” he said.

But the end result is worse than before. Campaigns that once had the ability to control the tone of campaigns, now don’t have a choice. There’s so much mud being thrown now that has to be responded to, it’s hard to drive a positive message.

“It is the heat of battle and hard to do more than just reload and aim,” said Dr. John Geer, chair of the political science department at Vanderbilt.

But don’t take his word for it. Here is a timeline of the back and forth so far, with about five months to go:

November 8, 2012

Terry McAuliffe announces he will run for Virginia governor. In a letter to supporters obtained by Politico he writes, “It is absolutely clear to me that Virginians want their next Governor to focus on job creation and common sense fiscal responsibility instead of divisive partisan issues.”

February 12

Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli releases a new book, “The Last Line of Defense: The New Fight for  American Liberty.” Virginia Democratic legislators stage a public reading to highlight passages that would reinforce an image of Cuccinelli as a conservative ideologue.

March 27

American Bridge releases a Tumblr named “Ken on the Issues” painting Cuccinelli as too extreme for Virginia. One of the first posts:

Ken on the Issues

April 18

Cuccinelli opens up tax records to reporters from the past eight years.

April 22

Cuccinelli releases a video using McAuliffe’s statements on 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney to pressure McAuliffe into releasing his own tax records. “If you have nothing to hide…then release the documents,” says McAuliffe in the video.

April 23

The Susan B. Anthony List releases the first paid ad as part of a $1.5 million pledge to Cuccinelli. The radio ad criticizes McAuliffe for opposing the Virginia Board of Health’s new regulations for abortion clinics, calling him “the candidate who has taken extreme positions far outside the mainstream….one candidate whose radical ideas are troubling to every woman in Virginia…Career politician Terry McAuliffe is too extreme for Virginia.”

PolitiFact later rates the ad “Pants on Fire.”

April 23

McAuliffe releases a six page summary of his tax records over the past three years. Cuccinelli campaign manager Dave Rexrode says in a statement that McAuliffe’s attempt “fell woefully short.”

April 26

Cuccinelli releases his first TV ad, which shows his wife celebrating his work against child predators and human traffickers, his college days working with people with mental illness, and his night shift at a homeless shelter.

April 27

Cuccinelli releases a video ripping McAuliffe’s tenure at GreenTech Auto, which failed to deliver on creating thousands of jobs as McAuliffe pledged.

May 1

Republican Governors Association calls McAuliffe, a “real family man” on Twitter for leaving his pregnant wife’s delivery room for a Washington Post party. He did get back in time for his daughter’s birth. McAuliffe wrote about the event in his book released in 2008, What a Party!
May 1

McAuliffe launches first TV ad emphasizing his background and 20 years in Virginia.

May 2

American Bridge releases a web ad asking what else Cuccinelli is hiding in the case of Star Scientific, a drug company under fire for misleading investors in which Cuccinelli has invested more than $10,000 worth of stock.

May 6

The Republican National Committee releases a video attacking McAuliffe for events described in What a Party!, including the time he stopped by a fundraiser on the drive back from the hospital after his son Peter was born.

May 13

Cuccinelli releases his second ad, “Your Side,” in which he describes that he is against tax loopholes and special giveaways, and for cutting taxes for the middle class.

May 16

Planned Parenthood endorses McAuliffe, who launches a “Women for Terry” group. His campaign forgets, however, to purchase the domain name.

Women for Terry

May 17

Dorothy McAuliffe defends her husband’s actions surrounding the birth of their children, responding in a written statement, “While Terry has always been there for me, I can stand on my own two feet and say that Mr. Cuccinelli should know that he will have me to answer to if he wants to intrude on our family life for political attacks.”

May 18

Cuccinelli calls McAuliffe a Washington insider/Virginia outsider in his Virginia GOP Convention speech. “So for Virginians who think Washington works well, they have a candidate in this race. And the Virginians who don’t think Washington works well, also have a candidate in this race,” he says.

May 20

Cuccinelli releases a third TV ad in which a police officer’s widow says, “I think Ken would make a great Governor.”

May 22

In his second ad, McAuliffe links himself to the landmark transportation bill compromise championed by Republican Gov. Robert F. McDonnell, and recounts the Republican squabble over the legislation. The narrator says McAuliffe “reaches out to Democrats, and urges them to support the bill, and the bill passes.”

May 23

Cuccinelli releases a video of his CPAC speech, in which he touts his record as the first state Attorney General to file a lawsuit to stop Obamacare.

May 23

After McAuliffe announces that he would support offshore oil drilling, aligning himself with a bill introduced by Virginia Sens. Mark Warner (D) and Tim Kaine (D), America Rising goes to Tumblr and YouTube to portray McAuliffe as a flip-flopper.

PolitiFact would later agree that McAuliffe flip-flopped.

May 23

American Bridge posts footage of Cuccinelli saying that Obama is worse than King George III and has “trampled” on the Constitution. He also says in the video that it “doesn’t seem beyond the realm of possibility” that the President was born in Kenya.

May 28

Walter A. Stosch (R-Henrico), who chairs the Virginia Senate Finance Committee, says that even by the standards of a political ad, McAuliffe’s claim on brokering the bill is absurd.

May 28

Cuccinelli has suggested Planned Parenthood is racist, Politico reports, and Anna Scholl, executive director of the liberal advocacy group
Progress VA, says Cuccinelli and his running mate, E.W. Jackson, “can’t help themselves when it comes to outrageous attacks on women’s health care access.” American Bridge releases an ad of Jackson and Cuccinelli drawing connections between Planned Parenthood and racism.

May 29

America Rising posts on Tumblr “Terry the Exaggerator,” which shines light on a Washington Times article reporting that even some Democrats agree that McAuliffe played little role in the transportation bill.

Terry the Exaggerator

May 30

McAuliffe’s latest ad, “Focus,” repeats the goals he made in his opening letter to supporters announcing his candidacy. “There are some out there who are focused on a divisive, ideological agenda, and that’s just not helpful. It’s taking time away from the things that Virginia families want us to be focused on: job growth, economic development,” he says.

Cuccinelli campaign manager rebuts the new ad, telling the Washington Post, “After stretching the truth in previous advertisements, his third ad takes things to a whole new level. McAuliffe’s real jobs record has revealed itself as a string of broken promises.”

May 30

Cuccinelli and McAuliffe address a fundraising luncheon for the nonprofit, nonpartisan tracker of cash in state politics, the Virginia Public Access Project. Cuccinelli again asks McAuliffe to release his full tax returns and to debate him 15 times over the next five months. McAuliffe tells reporters he has agreed to the traditional five debates for Virginia gubernatorial candidates. When pressed on releasing more tax returns, McAuliffe says he has filed the required forms and that Cuccinelli did not disclose all of his gifts from Star Scientific.  (AP)

Update:

Josh Schwerin, Terry McAuliffe’s press secretary, tells TIME:

Terry and our team have been entirely focused on what’s most important in this election:  solutions to strengthen and diversify our economy as defense spending draws down and the Sequester hits us. Virginia’s the top recipient of federal dollars. So when extremist groups like the virulent anti-reproductive-rights Susan B. Anthony List outspend even the Cuccinelli campaign—and Republicans pick down-ticket candidates that reinforce Cuccinelli’s social agenda is his top cause—we think it strengthens the clarity of our message in contrast.

Ken Cuccinelli’s spokeswoman, Anna Nix, tells TIME:

Ken Cuccinelli is focused on his vision for growing the economy and easing burdens on job creators and middle-class families. Unlike his opponent, Cuccinelli has spent the last several weeks unveiling specific policy proposals to grow the economy, create jobs, and utilize all of our natural resources to reduce energy prices. Ken believes it is important that every Virginian has the opportunity to hear the candidates’ ideas for our future, which is why he proposed 15 debates across the Commonwealth. In the months ahead, you will continue to see Ken Cuccinelli spread his message of smaller government, lower taxes, and more jobs throughout Virginia.

Correction:

A previous version of this article stated that one of Terry McAuliffe’s ads made the claim that he “helped negotiate” the transportation bill. 

24 comments
bobcova
bobcova

The Virginia attorney general would not address a constitutional issue that was the heart of proposed legislation to allow independent attorney in disputes between a developer and the association corporation when the developer controlled the association and its attorney who could block access to the courts. The US Supreme Court has ruled that a corporation has a right to sue and be sued. 


The net result of this failure of our attorney general is that there are territories in Virginia that are unilaterally declared exempt from the rule of law in civil matters since there is no way for the association corporation to address illegal actions against it.

See the attorney general's opinion at:http://www.oag.state.va.us/  under opinions, Jan 2013, Reeves. Note that the question asked by the state senator was not about individual rights but a corporation's right to defend itself. So by evading the key issue, the legislation that would have corrected the situation never got to first base. He backed the special interests of developers against the rule of law and one of the most fundamental principles of commerce, the means to enforce contracts.

If a state attorney general cannot do his job, how is he ever going to administer our state responsibly as governor?

tpaine
tpaine

How did McAuliffe go from a net worth of a few million to hundreds of millions after leaving as head of the DNC.  Obama's "crony socialism" and trillion dollar/yr national debt answer the question.  Same way Al Gore and hundreds of other 1% Democrats did.

thesafesurfer
thesafesurfer

 No, the dirtiest campain in America is the one by the Internal Revenue Service to silence the freedom of speech rights of Americans who oppose the grotesque growth of the Federal Government in Washington D.C. 



pappoo
pappoo

And Time isn't in the Demo bag?

reallife
reallife

Uh Oh -  if Time comes out with this article the democrat must be in trouble already

LOL

buffalo.barnes102
buffalo.barnes102

Let's all face the less-than-Supreme Court and thank them for unleashing the Hounds of Hell. Politics was never  a place for the faint of heart. Now it's become Thunder Dome: "Two men enter; one man leaves!" and not the "best' man either. Is this really the people we want speaking for us? Bought-and-paid-for puppets without an original thought in their heads, waiting for their leashes to be jerked? Down with Citizens United!

DanCheshire
DanCheshire

As long as only the wealthy can be politicians then we will see this kind of childish behavior.  The wealthy can never compromise. It is always their way or the highway.  It shouldn't cost millions of dollars to run for governor, senator or president.  The wealthy have ensured that they alone have the privilege of running the country.  It is the working class who build and maintain this country and we have to listen to childish rich people throw around a bunch of make-believe rhetoric.  Here's a news flash; Americans are no longer uneducated, back country farmers.  You cannot simply get up on stage and throw around a bunch of old-fashioned political rhetoric anymore.  Just saying "I want to create jobs" doesn't cut it anymore.  Tell us how.  Americans are educated and informed.  The upcoming elections in 2014 are going to change the political landscape for the better.  Working class Americans are voting now.  There are far more of us than the wealthy.  Every Democrat is out recruiting those who haven't registered to vote.  Our goal is to eliminate every single old-fashioned politician who stands on a stale, tired and failed platform of conservatism.  America needs to be lithe and innovative.  Conservatism is a box for the condemned.  America can be great again but first we'll have to get rid of all these hateful, closed minded politicians who never care about accomplishing an real work and only work to promote the wealthy.  Innovation requires freedom to make mistakes.

cent-fan
cent-fan

"Terry and our team have been entirely focused on what’s most important in this election:  solutions to strengthen and diversify our economy as defense spending draws down and the Sequester hits us. Virginia’s the top recipient of federal dollars. So when extremist groups like the virulent anti-reproductive-rights Susan B. Anthony List outspend even the Cuccinelli campaign—and Republicans pick down-ticket candidates that reinforce Cuccinelli’s social agenda is his top cause—we think it strengthens the clarity of our message in contrast."

"In the months ahead, you will continue to see Ken Cuccinelli spread his message of smaller government, lower taxes, and more jobs throughout Virginia."

  The high powered, high paying jobs and many of the rest come out of DC and the consultant, think tanky, government support operative types.  Cuccinelli would just as soon knock Virginia back to depending on tourist dollars from touring Civil War sites.... which would close for lack of funding.  No, the Tea Party can use that against him but unless McAuliffe is an idiot he should be pushing the idea that anyone holding a government job in Virginia (Federal, state, or local) has no friends and an uncertain future if Cuccinelli gets in.  That's a lot of people.


 

MementoMori
MementoMori

Yeah! How dare people use that actual statements that Cuccinelli and Jackson made as evidence of their extremist stance! Oh, the humanity!

Seriously, though, these two, by every available definition, are on the extreme right of the political spectrum. McAuliffe is a beltway moderate that leans slightly to the left. Slightly. So, the usual false equivalence exercise you're attempting here isn't entirely accurate is it?

Here's some quotes: I defy you to find anything anywhere near as extreme or hateful coming from McAauliffe.

Cuccinelli

"My view is that homosexual acts, not homosexuality, but homosexual acts are wrong. They’re intrinsically wrong. And I think in a natural law based country it’s appropriate to have policies that reflect that. ... They don’t comport with natural law. I happen to think that it represents (to put it politely; I need my thesaurus to be polite) behavior that is not healthy to an individual and in aggregate is not healthy to society."

Cuccinelli: Well… that’s a good question. Not one I’ve thought a lot about because it hasn’t been part of my campaign. Someone is going to have to come forward with nailed down testimony that he was born in place B, wherever that is. You know, the speculation is Kenya. And that doesn’t seem beyond the realm of possibility.

Ken Cuccinelli was profiled on "The 700 Club" today where he suggested that God made him Attorney General of Virginia so that he could protect the Constitution from President Obama

EW Jackson

E.W. Jackson: Obama Is an Atheist/Muslim and We're 'Dealing With An Evil Presence'

E.W. Jackson: A Vote for Me is a Vote for 'Glory of God'

E.W. Jackson: Obamas are Communist Sympathizers Who Promote the 'Liberal Plantation of Psychological Bondage'

E.W. Jackson Warns Same-Sex Marriage Leads to Bestiality: 'Adam and Steve' Becomes 'Adam and a Bull'

Now, please, show me a McAuliffe quote that's as crazy as any of that stuff.



paulejb
paulejb

Terry McAuliffe was Bill Clinton's money man. That alone makes him a dirty politician.

RudyTejano
RudyTejano

Salvos from the right and left are taking a toll on every voter in this state! Suffice to say If you continue to oppose gay marriage, you're in trouble. 

If you continue to try to reverse women's rights, you're in trouble.If you continue to obstruct our economic recover, you're in trouble. If you continue to vote in radical candidates that know nothing about being a "statesman" and can't cooperate, you're in trouble. If you are tired of the stalemate and radical extremes blocking key legislation at the local, state level and nationally, get involved and inform yourselves, get registered and V.O.T.E.(Vote Out The Encumberance) The Treasonous Enraged Agitators(TEA) party and Grandiose Oppressive Partisans(GOP) are too busy passing gas upwind and trying to repeal health care.(37 times now and counting)

cdherz44
cdherz44

Ha Ha!  I do love how these establishment crooks are falling out among themselves:  A true measure of the bankruptcy of the whole US system; not just that of Virginia.  I really feel sorry for our people, stuck with governance by creatures like both these men, but I feel sorrier for our poor and for those in other lands, blasted apart by our militarism and the inveterate greed of the elites represented by both these guys and their respective parties.

Move over to the Greens or other third parties.  At least you will not have to support corruption and criminality.

mdcrawfish
mdcrawfish

The bottom line is that Cuccinelli is an extreme RW person. He has made statements that should give VA voters concern. He is not just conservative, he's part of the crazy movement in the House, that has prevented legislation from passing. I hope the people of VA see past the the camaign rehtoric and don't let VA turn into another Republican wasteland.

notsacredh
notsacredh

A politician is a man who will double cross that bridge when he comes to it - Oscar Levant

ThomasHall
ThomasHall

The right-wing GOP have changed the landscape in Virginia with a relentless attack on women's reproductive by GOP religious zealots that have tried to close down all legal abortion clinics in Virginia, gave us Gov. McDonnell intrusive, unnecessary, government-mandated trans-vag probe and now abdominal forced sonograms, restrictions against gays and Democrats on adoptions along with rollback on gun purchase laws, environment concerns and expanded, polluting natural gas fracking drilling, GOP voter suppression efforts, and increased sales taxes on the poor. Cuccinelli has been a lockstep extremist with Gov. McDonnell.

DonQuixotic
DonQuixotic

If it's an ugly campaign it's because Cuccinelli is a madman, and we Virginians (those of us that are sane) recognize that.

MrObvious
MrObvious

 Not all of the nastiness is the fault of the candidates. Both campaigns have been at the receiving end of two of the most brutal outside opposition research and attack efforts by dueling Super PACs: Democratic-leaning American Bridge and Republican-backing America Rising.


Must be nice when politicians don't have to take responsibility of their ideas. Money with 1st amendment rights.

Paul,nnto
Paul,nnto

I agree with Decon-plug your nose and vote for McAuliffe.  What a pair of tools. 

deconstructiva
deconstructiva

As for the state D's in VA, it's too late for this campaign but they need to step up and produce better candidates. Why did no one stronger come forward and take the primary? They should watch more Law & Order: SVU episodes where everyone has to produce no matter how unpleasant the circumstances. My favorite one-liner ever from that show is when Fin was forced to work a case with Stabler and he whined about it to Cragen. The Captain shut him down and tersely said, "Suck it up, do your job." That's what the D's in VA need to do to keep socially destructive conservatives like Cucchineeli, McDonnell, etc. out of power. Don't expect the voters to bail you out every time. Remember 2010.

deconstructiva
deconstructiva

Even with a dirty campaign and a weak candidate in McAuliffe, VA voters need to step up and vote to keep Cuccinelli out of office. If they fail and Cuccinelli wins, the voters as a group will deserve all the social conservative trans-vag. nonsense and Tea Party nihilism they will endure (though I will feel for the minority that did their duty, voted, and still lost). Memo to VA voters - remember one number - 2010. Don't stay at home just because the state D party failed to cough up someone worth voting for. This election may be a textbook definition of the perfect is the enemy of the good.


tpaine
tpaine

@buffalo.barnes102 yeah, let's just let the unions and liberal groups have a free field like they did before Citizens United.

tommyudo
tommyudo

@cdherz44 

Terry M may be an exemplary corporate hack , but at least he is sane while Kenny C is out to lunch. We are left with these two because the entire political system is  bankrolled by corrupting influences.  What is needed is a total revamping of the way campaigns are financed, so actually people will run who aren't going to be beholden to  big donors and the their parasitic lobbyist friends. The rub is that the only way to revamp the system is to either pass campaign finance reform laws, which aren't going to happen, since pols have a good thing keeping things the way they are. The only chnage has to be bottom up on a state by state basis that probably would take  decades. In the meantime, voting Green or any third party only salves your conscience, but in terms of electoral politics it's like spitting in the ocean.

buffalo.barnes102
buffalo.barnes102

@tpaine @buffalo.barnes102 

I live in Hawaii, so don't preach to me about Unions. Between the Labor unions and State employees getting a paid day off before and after every two-bit holiday they can find on a calendar, you're preaching to the choir. I say let the candidates pay for their own campaigns and stand on their own two feet.