Yesterday’s Quinnipiac poll took a pretty significant bite out of McAuliffe’s presumed lead in the Virginia gubernatorial race, definitely putting a damper on the narrative that Cuccinelli has fallen into too deep of a hole out of which he can’t climb back out. Both candidates are still in this thing, and indeed, if McAuliffe doesn’t start boning up on some of the issues that concern Virginian residents and businesses, he wont’ be doing himself any favors.
Mary Katharine already covered the weekend’s rather embarrassing incident in which McAuliffe tried to convince a techie business group that he’ll make a good governor because of his experience in that time-honored political field of winingand-dining/boozing-and-schmoozing, and subsequently tried to wrest their endorsement from Cuccinelli after his thoughtful and well-researched performance. Probably a good move for the Cuccinelli campaign to capitalize on the situation, which they’re doing:
In what was evidently almost a repeat of that episode in terms of preparedness, however, McAuliffe was on the defensive with reporters at the Virginia Summit on Economic Competitiveness and Higher Education in Richmond on Wednesday, particularly when asked about how his campaign tried to arm-twist the business group into giving him their endorsement as well as his apparent backing away from a promise not to sign a state budget that does not include money to expand Medicaid under ObamaCare. Via the Washington Post:
Asked about the behind-the-scenes push to change the endorsement, McAuliffe said he was in the dark. “I don’t know anything about it,” he said, pivoting immediately to another subject. …
Asked whether he really meant that he would not sign a budget without the expansion, McAuliffe said: “I always say, ‘Please make sure you send a budget that has the Medicaid expansion.’ ” He has left off the “please” in at least three campaign appearances.
When pressed on his previous statements, McAuliffe suggested that he could talk reluctant Republicans into supporting expansion with a series of one-on-one meetings over meals.
“Here’s what we’re gonna do, after I get elected, the day after I get elected, I’m going to spend the ensuing couple months — I’m going to visit every single Republican House of Delegates member, every Republican state senator,” he said. “Breakfast, lunch, dinner, whatever it may be. I’m going to visit every single one of them.”
And their actual speeches at the forum reflected more of the same, with Cuccinelli going full wonk on policy issues and McAuliffe… well, not really even trying:
The speeches themselves fed into the narrative that emerged from the TechPAC flap: that McAuliffe is breezy while Cuccinelli grasps the details and gravity of the job. Both candidates had 45 minutes to address the group. Cuccinelli gave a 39- minute address heavy on wonky details. McAuliffe gave his standard 16-minute stump speech.
These sorts of events and endorsements would typically be pretty run-of-the-mill campaign checklist items to which normal voters would pay approximately zero attention — but McAuliffe seems to have a grand total of one general answer for just about every political problem. This is where a lifetime of government experience and a lifetime of political fundraising and schmoozing are really starting to form a noticeable dichotomy, and if McAuliffe keeps whiffing like this, it won’t be to his advantage.