TO: Interested Parties
FROM: Danny Kanner, DGA Communications Director
DATE: July 16, 2013
Re: Advantage Cuccinelli for First Debate of Virginia Governor’s Race
Ken Cuccinelli has had a disastrous few weeks. He’s been embroiled in a scandal involving the gifts he and Governor Bob McDonnell took from Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams, refused to answer for his opposition to the Violence Against Women Act, and faced withering criticism for secretly providing legal advice to out-of-state natural gas companies in their legal fight against Southwest Virginia landowners.
But make no mistake, Ken Cuccinelli will go to any and all lengths to avoid discussing these issues in Saturday’s first debate of the Virginia governor’s race. As was well-documented at the time, in his 2009 debates, Cuccinelli “filibustered and evaded” when pressed on his radical social agenda, while hiding behind “legally complex” issues to avoid thorough scrutiny of his record.
In fact, if the past is any indication, we can expect that Ken Cuccinelli will be dishonest about his positions in the first debate – much like Mitt Romney was in 2012. And while the political press may have fallen for Romney’s reinvention at the time, the American public saw it for what it was: a cynical ploy to mislead them about his extreme positions. While we can expect to see the same from Cuccinelli, Virginia voters won’t be fooled.
That said, having served in public office for more than a decade, Cuccinelli has participated in numerous debates and, by all accounts, performed extraordinary well. Terry McAuliffe, on the other hand, has spent his career as a businessman and has limited debate experience.
That’s likely why Cuccinelli has been so eager to debate McAuliffe:
National Review: “Why Ken Cuccinelli Can’t Wait to Debate Terry McAuliffe” [National Review Online, 7/11/13]
- “Cuccinelli is nine days away from his first debate with rival Terry McAuliffe, and there’s a sense he and his team are itching to get the pair on stage, early and as often as possible. Cuccinelli’s campaign proposed 15 debates, with one in every major and minor media market in the state.” [National Review Online, 7/11/13]
Cuccinelli: “I Want To Debate My Opponent In Every Corner Of The State.” “Cuccinelli also said he wants to debate McAuliffe – not just the three or so debates that are usual in statewide races in Virginia, but debates all around the state. ‘In the months ahead, the people of Virginia will have a clear choice to make between two very different visions of our future, and it’s a debate that everyone should see,’ Cuccinelli said. ‘That’s why I want to debate my opponent in every corner of the state. Not simply joint appearances where scripted sound bites are all we are expected to deliver, but actual real, honest debates where we can have a frank discussion about the issues that are important to Virginia and let the people decide.’” [Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, 5/18/13]
Cuccinelli Proposed 15 Debates. “The debate over debates has begun. Last month, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe called on Republican Ken Cuccinelli to join him in five debates across the commonwealth. Last weekend, Cuccinelli upped the ante, pledging to debate McAuliffe 15 times, an offer that the McAuliffe campaign dismissed as a ‘political stunt.’ So far, the campaigns have managed to agree on one.” [Richmond Times-Dispatch, 5/22/13]
Cuccinelli: Debates Are “Most Effective Way To Test Competing Ideas.” “Cuccinelli, who spoke first, reiterated his challenge to McAuliffe to hold 15 debates across the state. Attorney General Cuccinelli first called for the unprecedented number of debates in a governor’s race at the state Republican Party’s nominating convention on May 18… ‘Let’s try to include every part of Virginia in the discussion,’ Cuccinelli said. ‘You can think back to prior races, and lots of parts of Virginia never see the major candidates contesting with one another in a debate format. It is the most effective way to test competing ideas.’” [Daily Press, 5/31/13]
Cuccinelli has good reason to want to debate at a moment when his job performance, ethics, and extreme views have come into serious question. He has a long record of effectively hiding his true, radical agenda in debates:
Cuccinelli’s 2007 Opponent Conceded He Was Highly “Adept,” “Articulate” And “Practiced.” Washington Post columnist March Fisher wrote in October 2007, “During the TV debate, [Janet Oleszek] froze on some questions, stammering and halting. How did the debate go, I ask her a couple of days later. ‘It went,’ she says. ‘Ken is very politically adept. He’s a very articulate lawyer, a practiced politician. I think it’s pretty clear that I’m not.’” [Marc Fisher, Washington Post, 10/11/07]
Carney: Cuccinelli’s Debate Opponent “Filibustered And Evaded.” Washington Examiner columnist Tim Carney wrote in October 2009 that, “When asked in a recent debate for details about what the AG job entailed, Shannon filibustered and evaded so badly that Cuccinelli jokingly made a courtroom-style objection that the witness was not answering the question — more evidence Shannon is really running this year for the 2013 gubernatorial nomination.” [Tim Carney, Examiner, 10/30/09]
Casey: Cuccinelli’s Debate Opponent Came Off “Way Out Of His League.” Roanoke Times columnist Dan Casey wrote in November 2009 that Cuccinelli’s “Democratic opponent, Del. Steve Shannon, came across in debates like a passionless nerd who’s way out of his league.” [Dan Casey, Roanoke Times, 11/1/09]
Cuccinelli “Has Always Performed Better Than His Opponents Expected.”“Cuccinelli, whose genial manner helps soften the sharp edge of his opinions, has always performed better than his opponents expected, winning election to the Virginia Senate three times this decade in the most liberal part of the state. His legislative district overlaps with Shannon’s in Fairfax and has overwhelmingly elected Democrats in recent statewide elections. All the same, it has come as a surprise to Republicans and Democrats that Cuccinelli is comfortably ahead in statewide polls.” [Washington Post,10/19/09]
Cuccinelli Focused On “Legally Complex” Issues During 2009 AG Race.“Cuccinelli is viewed in high regard by the commonwealth’s most staunchly conservative voters, and held up by the Left as a symbol of right-wing zealotry in the legislature. He has spent the bulk of the race seeking to prove he is more competent than Shannon, focusing on legally complex issues like fixing the U.S. Supreme Court’s Melendez-Diaz ruling that has caused chaos in courtrooms across the state. That decision allowed defense attorneys to subpoena lab technicians in drunken-driving cases, overburdening the state’s ability to prosecute those arrests.” [Examiner, 10/4/09]
The trajectory of the Virginia governor’s race has been moving firmly in favor of Terry McAuliffe. Public polling, fundraising, and endorsements have all indicated that Virginia voters are receptive to his message of job creation and economic opportunity. That’s because he’s the one candidate for governor who is focused on mainstream solutions to the commonwealth’s economic challenges. But despite Cuccinelli’s extreme, unpopular social agenda, he has proven an adept debater, which we can expect to be the case again on Saturday.