Republican leaders are working hard to disown Iowa Congressman Steve King’s ongoing crusade to label young undocumented immigrants as cantaloupe-calved pot smugglers (even if they’re still figuring out whether to distance themselves from his policy). But Democrats hope the renewed focus on extreme rhetoric gives them an opportunity to keep up the offensive, much like Todd Akin’s 2012 claim that “legitimate rape” rarely caused pregnancy in 2012 helped feed a national debate over reproductive rights that carried into other races.
Case in point: Virginia’s race for governor.
Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, the Republican nominee, hasn’t had the most consistent take on immigration compared to the relentlessly hardline King. But he did stumble into some dicey rhetoric of his own last year while discussing–of all topics–pest control policies in the District of Columbia. From the January 2012 radio WMAL interview, transcribed by DCist:
CUCCINELLI: Well, I saw the same rat story about D.C. that y’all have been talking about. What you may not know is that last year, in its finite wisdom, the D.C. City Council passed a new law, or a triumph of animal rights over human health, where those pest control people you suggested they bring in aren’t allowed to kill the rats. They have to relocate the rats and not only that– that’s actually not the worst part–they cannot break up the families of the rats. Now, as actual experts in pest control will tell you, if you don’t move an animal at least 25 miles, it’ll come back. And so what’s the solution to that? Well, cross a river.
HOST: Send ‘em over to Virginia, that’s right.
CUCCINELLI: Guess why I care about that sort of thing?
OTHER HOST: I bet.
CUCCINELLI: Anyway, it is worse than our immigration policy – you can’t break up families. Or raccoons or all the rest and you can’t even kill them. Unbelievable.
Democratic trackers American Bridge, who helped surface the original Akin clip last year, think there’s an opening to link Cuccinelli to King now. On Friday they put out a video featuring the radio appearance along with Cuccinelli praising King at the annual Lincoln Dinner in Iowa the same year.
Their effort dovetails with the broader Democratic strategy in the Virginia race , which has primarily focused on portraying Cuccinelli as a fringe figure on social issues.
“It’s pathetic,” Cuccinelli spokesman Chris LaCivita told msnbc when asked about the King comparison. “And it’s an obvious attempt to distract from the fact that Terry McAuliffe is now engulfed in a scandal that may have national security implications.”
Will it stick? Unlike King, Cuccinelli doesn’t vote on immigration reform, so it may be harder to keep the focus on the issue in a state race. But, if anything, it’s more proof that politicians should be on guard whenever animal control comes up. Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning’s Senate campaign ran into a wall last year when the Republican compared welfare recipients to bug-eating raccoons.