Ken Cuccinelli, Terry McAuliffe Stick to Talking Points, Attacks in First Statewide Debate
Contorno, Steve, Examiner (Washington, D.C.), The
MCLEAN -- Virginia's gubernatorial candidates had their first debate in front of a statewide audience Wednesday night and spent most of it rehashing the familiar attacks they've spent millions of dollars broadcasting all summer long.
The stakes were especially high for Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who entered the televised debate trailing Democrat Terry McAuliffe. He sought during the hour-long appearance to portray McAuliffe as a Democratic Party insider with no elective experience who throws around buzz words like "jobs" and "bipartisanship" without the knowledge of state government to back it up.
"I'm the only candidate with a plan to create jobs other than to say the word 'jobs' repeatedly," Cuccinelli said.
McAuliffe -- who leads among women voters by as much as 24 percentage points -- continued to pressure Cuccinelli on social issues while promising to be a uniter in office.
He also sought to distance himself from the Washington political scene where he made a living as a Democratic Party chairman and top fundraiser for former President Bill Clinton.
"I think it's a disgrace what's going on in Washington," McAuliffe said. "I place a pox on everyone's house."
The debate was just the second -- and next to last -- in a long and heated campaign in which polls show that months of attack ads have actually reduced both candidates' likability among voters.
Debate moderator Chuck Todd, of MSNBC, launched the debate by asking both candidates to respond to the way their opponent has portrayed them in those ad barrages. McAuliffe, portrayed as a well- connected political opportunist, pointed to a long career in the private sector. Cuccinelli, portrayed by McAuliffe as a conservative extremist, said he has proven himself in office to be someone who fight for all Virginians.
The two candidates sparred over everything from whether to expand Medicaid in Virginia in accordance with President Obama's health care reforms to whether the Washington Redskins should change their name.
On Medicaid, McAuliffe has lobbied hard for the expansion, billing it as a revenue generator for the state that can fund programs like pre-K education. Cuccinelli ridiculed the notion that Medicaid expansion could be a "funding mechanism for everything [McAuliffe] wants."
Neither Cuccinelli nor McAuliffe would push the Redskins to change their name.
When asked if Virginia schools should be allowed to open before Labor Day, a perennial issue for state politicians, McAuliffe said he would not grant schools exemptions, indicating it would hurt a tourism industry that relies on late-summer family vacations and young student employees. …