The PJ Tatler

VA Gubernatorial Race A Dead Heat, But Cuccinelli Faces Future Fundraising Problem

As Virginia’s 2013 gubernatorial race heats up between Terry McAuliffe and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, it’s still a dead heat.  Ben Pershing at the Washington Post wrote on January 9 that:

[T]he Quinnipiac University poll confirms that the 2013 race will be a competitive and closely-watched affair, the latest piece of evidence that Virginia is a true swing state.

McAuliffe gets 40 percent of registered voters to 39 percent for Cuccinelli in a head-to-head matchup, a result relatively unchanged from a November Quinnipiac survey that gave McAuliffe a narrow 4-point lead. A trial heat in the new poll including Bolling gives him 13 percent and McAuliffe and Cuccinelli 34 percent apiece.

Cuccinelli and McAuliffe are now the lone serious contenders for their respective party nominations, after each man avoided potential challenges.

Cuccinelli has clear sailing to the Republican nod since Bolling decided to drop out of that contest, though he is still publicly mulling the possibility of running as an independent candidate. White House gate-crasher Tareq Salahi also claims to be runningfor the Republican nomination, but neither party is paying him much mind.

However, to say that Virginia is a swing state is dubious.  Republicans dominate the state legislature, and occupy the governor’s mansion.  Second, the amount of government workers from Washington also factors into this equation.  Lastly, 1/3 of all Virginia voters are undecided.  Furthermore, half didn’t have an opinion about McAuliffe, and 4 in 10 weren’t sure about Cuccinelli.  Then, there’s the Bill Boiling factor that hasn’t gone away.

In addition to name-ID problems, both candidates could face an extra challenge from moderate Republican Lt. Governor Bill Bolling, who said on a recent radio interview that there is a “50% chance” he would mount an independent campaign. The same poll showed Bolling earned 9% of the vote, pulling votes from both candidates. Local conservative bloggers have posted widely circulated rumors that Bolling is being urged to run by major McAuliffe donors. This is what conservative icon Richard Viguerie referred to as Bolling’s“Charlie Crist” moment.

Both major party campaigns started the new year with approximately $1 million to spend (and Bolling has about $1.5 million on hand). However, Cuccinelli is facing a serious disadvantage, as his fundraising operation must shut down while the General Assembly is in session (late February), while McAuliffe – a well-connected, personal friend of former President Bill Clinton – can keep raising unlimited amounts of money. In addition, both President Barack Obama and now-Senator Tim Kaine carried Virginia in 2012.

Maybe conservatives should start considering creating a super PAC for Cuccinelli.