Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell could have been one of Ken Cuccinelli’s biggest assets in the Virginia governor’s race, but instead he’s turning out to be a drag on the GOP candidate’s campaign.
With investigations into McDonnell and his wife’s association with and gifts they received from Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams intensifying, Democrats have been eager to hang the controversy around Cuccinelli’s neck, especially since he too accepted gifts from the controversial GOP donor. But the attorney general has been cleared of any wrongdoing after he amended his financial disclosures earlier this year.
That’s a point Cuccinelli takes pains to make in an ad his campaign released last week, that doesn’t just hit at his opponent, Democratic nominee Terry McAuliffe, but looks to distance himself from the pall that has hung over the governor’s mansion. The ad hits McAuliffe over his own ongoing troubles with an SEC investigation into his former electric car company, but McAuliffe hasn’t been identified as a subject of the probe.
“There’s only one candidate under investigation, Terry McAuliffe. Potential fraud that killed jobs and threatened national security. And the press calls McAuliffe’s attacks false,” the ad says. “A Democrat Commonwealth attorney cleared Cuccinelli of any wrongdoing.”
“Cuccinelli personally launched the investigation into Bob McDonnell. And called for immediate reform to strengthen ethics laws. Those are the facts,” the GOP nominee’s ad boasts.
A Quinnipiac University poll last week showed McAuliffe, a former DNC chairman with close ties to the Clintons, opening up a six-point lead in the closely watched race in the Old Dominion.
“The campaign has been light on issues and big on personalities, and it is in the area of personal characteristics that McAuliffe has a small edge,” Quinnipiac assistant polling director Peter A. Brown wrote in his assessment. “It seems obvious that Gov. Bob McDonnell’s political troubles are hurting fellow Republican Cuccinelli. Guilt by association may not be fair, but it sure is politically powerful. Trust matters and at this point neither man is doing all that well in that category.”
“The voters in Virginia know that the governor isn’t going to be on the ballot,” former RNC Chairman Michael Steele said on Monday’s The Daily Rundown. ”The next best thing is to take it out on the leading candidate for the GOP brand, to send a message.”