At the moment, Democrat Terry McAuliffe has a decent lead over Republican Ken Cuccinelli in the Virginia gubernatorial race. It’s way early to declare victory, of course, and I’m lukewarm about McAuliffe generally. But what’s interesting here is that McAuliffe is ahead mostly because he has a huge lead among women.
The shift in the race has come almost exclusively from female voters, who prefer McAuliffe by a 24-point margin over Cuccinelli. The candidates were effectively tied among women in a Washington Post poll in May.
McAuliffe’s strength among women is probably due in part to an intense campaign to portray Cuccinelli as a threat to women and the issues they care about most deeply. A new McAuliffe ad, for instance, features a Norfolk OB-GYN speaking directly to the camera about how she is “offended” by Cuccinelli’s position on abortion.
We saw a lot of this during the 2012 elections, but it’s so good to find Dems unabashedly supporting abortion rights and learning this can win elections for them.
Dave Wiegel doesn’t mention McAuliffe’s support among women, but says the GOP is gobsmacked that McAuliffe is winning.
What mystifies Republicans is that McAuliffe, who they consider a homonoculus made of pure sleaze, trounces Cuccinelli on questions of “trustworthiness” and ethics. Voters simply know more, and worry more, about Cuccinelli’s financial scandals than about McAuliffe’s. And they narrowly prefer the Democrats in the downballot lieutenant governor and attorney general races, before Democrats have really gotten on the air to amplify the social conservative positions of the GOP candidates. (LG candidate E.W. Jackson is the guy who worries that Satan might fill the hearts of people who engage in meditation. For an example.)
It’s by no means clear that Republicans know how to combat this. The most effective ad I’ve seen (in D.C., we get a decent amount of Virginia TV) comes from Citizens United; it condenses their documentary about McAuliffe’s failing businesses and disappointed employees into a spot reminiscent of the anti-Romney spots that worked so well in 2012. More recently, I saw this spot from the new Super PAC Fight for Tomorrow. It started running on September 12.
[The ad is a hoot, btw]
The ad speaks to the conservative frustration with Virginia — how, how, how can voters not see that McAuliffe is a Democratic sleeper agent? In a fundraising pitch, FF asks for “$400,000-$600,000” to run the ad and promises that Virginia “can be a Gettysburg for the whole Obama-Clinton nightmare.”
I haven’t spent enough time in Virginia to have a feel for what works there and what doesn’t. If you ran that ad in New York City media, people might assume they were watching a rerun from Saturday Night Live. And if McAuliffe is a radical leftie, I’m a blowfish.
This race could easily tighten up again before it’s over. But if McAuliffe wins because of women’s votes, it would make the GOP crazy. Heh.