“All Puppy, No Plans”: Cuccinelli Nicks McAuliffe In Final Debate of Virginia Governor Race

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Steve Helber / AP

Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Terry McAuliffe, left, shakes the hand of Republican challenger Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, right, after a debate at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va., Thursday, Oct. 24, 2013.

Although he provided the best jabs of the night, Republican state attorney general Ken Cuccinelli may not have landed the knockout punch he needed to shake up the campaign in the third and final debate for the Virginia governor’s race.

Democrat Terry McAuliffe, who did not commit any campaign-destroying gaffes, appeared tired, rambled, and was cut off repeatedly—even during his opening statement—for going over his allotted time. Cuccinelli appeared calm and in control of his talking points, but failed to rattle his opponent.

When asked what he would like his major achievement to be while in office, Cuccinelli said implementing his jobs plan, which he claims would create 58,000 new jobs through lowering personal and corporate income tax rates. He says he would offset the decrease in revenue by reducing government spending and closing tax loopholes.

“Creating jobs and diversifying the economy,” said McAuliffe, after touching on education reform, carbon capture, research and development tax credits, transportation, health care, and the troubles of sequestration.

Cuccinelli pounced on the apparent lack of focus. “I like puppies,” Cuccinelli said. “But I don’t bring a puppy home if I don’t have a plan to take care of that puppy.” McAuliffe, he said, is “all puppy, no plans.” The response elicited giggles—one of the few crowd reactions of the night.

Third party candidate Libertarian Robert Sarvis, who appears to be the pick of conservative columnist George Will, tweeted, “KC’s jobs plan is weak tea. TM’s nonexistent. Here’s a real, principled, anti-cronyist jobs plan,” linking to his campaign website. Sarvis wasn’t allowed to debate since he did not average at least 10% in public polls, which he missed by fractions of a point at the deadline. According to the Real Clear Politics polling average, Sarvis now has 10%.

The other memorable moment of the debate occurred on the topic of gun control, an emotional issue at the Virginia Tech campus where the debate was held. McAuliffe made an emotional plea after Cuccinelli ripped him for being the National Rifle Association’s only F-rated statewide candidate this year. “I don’t care what grade I got from the NRA,” said McAuliffe, who supports universal background checks. “As governor I want to keep our communities safe.”

“None of what you’ve asked about would have affected that tragedy,” shot back Cuccinelli, who reiterated that we should respond to tragedies by seeking to improve mental health programs. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s political action committee Independence USA announced this week that it will support McAuliffe to the tune of $1 million. The NRA has contributed around $500,000 to oppose McAuliffe.

Despite the back-and-forth, there is little evidence to suggest that Cuccinelli’s performance resurrected his campaign. “The debate changed nothing, which is good for McAuliffe,” says Larry Sabato, Director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics. “All a late debate does is solidify partisan choices.”

A Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday, less than two weeks before the Nov. 5 election day, shows McAuliffe with a 46% to 39% advantage over Cuccinelli, with Sarvis at 10%. Only 4% of likely voters are undecided and 7% say there’s a “good chance” they will change their mind, according to the poll. Cuccinelli has to improve in rural Virginia, a Republican bastion where he is currently underperforming.

In his closing statement, Cuccinelli challenged McAuliffe. “Terry’s never told us his plans for Virginia—all he has is platitudes,” said Cuccinelli. “Terry, without mentioning me, I challenge you now, for the first time, to tell us one detailed plan and how you’ll pay for it.”

McAuliffe kept to his script, refusing to mention Cuccinelli, instead spending most of his time describing another candidate for governor with a business background and a moderate streak—former Democratic governor Mark Warner. “I want to govern in that style,” said McAuliffe.

If the polls are credible, McAuliffe likely will get that chance.

11 comments
MannyJenkins
MannyJenkins

When asked what he would like his major achievement to be while in office, Cuccinelli said implementing his jobs plan, which he claims would create 58,000 new jobs through lowering personal and corporate income tax rates. He says he would offset the decrease in revenue by reducing government spending and closing tax loopholes.--------------------------I would run fast from any politician who said this. This is not the 90s when politicians first started saying this. We actually have the evidence of what happens when you do this and the result is lack of infastructure to attract high level and high paying jobs. Look to Texas, low unemployment but of low wage work, worst schools in the nation, increase state tuition by the highest margins.People move to VA for top quality schools, and great white collar jobs. Their commute is a nightmare---they don't want to hear about possible dips in education spending and no transportation funding. I don't think that dogs going to hunt.

oldwhiteguy
oldwhiteguy

Like most of these right wing geniuses, Cuccinelli has a long string of stupid statements following him around and your basic "cut taxes, more jobs" blah blah "plan" for the future. Virginia is on the shore of the growing demographic change that will inexorably sweep away the Republican Party in its current form. Unless they get back to constructive, positive ideas and workable alternatives instead of personal attack politics and posturing for their base, they'll be going the way of the Titanic very soon.

shepherdwong
shepherdwong

"Despite the back-and-forth, there is little evidence to suggest that Cuccinelli’s performance resurrected his campaign"

How dare you suggest that Virginia voters might vote for the best candidate with the best public policy platform.

bobbyQ
bobbyQ

According to Terrible Terry Medicade is going to pay for everything....good luck with that one Virginians.  You're going to be crying if you elect this loser.

dectra
dectra

Cuccinelli is toast....

kounterfit
kounterfit

Why are we as free VA citizens okay with allowing a legitimate candidate to be excluded from ANY debate?  Robert Sarvis is on the ballot, however we have all allowed the two major parties (in our supposedly democratic nation) to shut out a third party candidate!  How can we look at this and still say we are democratic?  Anyone on the ballot should be able to explain their platform to the voting public, regardless of the party they represent.  If we as voters are not being allowed to hear all sides, how can we be INFORMED?  Applying blind credulity based on the name of a party is ridiculous and that very notion is what is killing democracy...

MrObvious
MrObvious

I think it would be beyond idiotic if anyone picked such a worthless 'winger twit like Cuccinelli. I mean he's a re-dux to the true and tried social conservative stuff with no other ideas then 'tax cuts' and 'orals are evuls'.

The guy is a gulag of terrible solutions to real problems.

sacredh
sacredh

"Cuccinelli said implementing his jobs plan, which he claims would create 58,000 new jobs through lowering personal and corporate income tax rates."

Isn't that the GOP plan for everything? Cut taxes, revenue decreases and the problems just magically disappear. It hasn't worked before, but hey, there's always a first time.

bazeek
bazeek

What will "inexorably sweep" the Republic (not just the Republican Party) is the inevitable repitition of history.  All democracies eventually fail (I think 200 yrs. has been the norm) and descind into socialism....and the cycle continues.....it was a noble experiment.  Just think.....Jefferson, Henry.........and now the inevitable.....Gov. Terry McC !!     From another old white guy.

chuck3
chuck3

@bobbyQ  Medicaid. And good luck in the spelling bee.