On Saturday, Virginia’s two candidates for Governor, Republican nominee and current Virginia Attorney General, Ken Cuccinelli, and Democratic nominee and former DNC Chairman, Terry McAuliffe, faced off in a debate sponsored by the Virginia Bar Association. During the two-hour long contest, Ken Cuccinelli clearly dominated his Democratic both by demonstrating a superior knowledge of local issues and benefitting from Terry McAuliffe’s sub-par performance. Here are some things to take away from the debate:
1) Terry McAuliffe will be Obama’s Governor, not Virginia’s. I lost track of the number of times he reiterated, “I will not fight the federal government.” The job of a state governor (according to the rules of federalism) is to represent the interests of their state even if they conflict with federal policy. Cuccinelli has proven he will do this through his record as Attorney General. Can we trust McAuliffe to do the same? The answer we were given today is “no.”
2) Ken Cuccinelli is way more pragmatic than most Democrats want to give him credit for. The candidate that they are trying to brand as an ideologue outlined numerous areas in this debate where he would be able to work across the aisle. On sequestration, he said everything should be on the table. On immigration, he signaled a more cooperative approach. The best line of the debate came during his remarks on immigration when he said, “I’m Italian. You get that from ‘Cuccinelli.’ I’m also Irish. You get that from how feisty I am.”
3) There are very stark differences between these two candidates, especially on what they view as the source of Virginia’s current success. McAuliffe seemed to attribute Virginia’s success to federal dollars while Cuccinelli correctly pointed out that it is the commonwealth’s right to work laws and low tax and regulatory burdens that make us stand out. Their economic policies reflect this difference. McAuliffe believes he has to micro-manage growth via state government. One of Cuccinelli’s most brilliant moments came when he countered this by saying that he “[trusts] you more than [his] opponent does” because he wants individual citizens to make the decisions about where their own money goes.
Overall, this was a successful debate since it gave each candidate the opportunity to differentiate themselves from their opponent. And after exposing those differences, it’s impossible for me to see how anyone watching could not realize that Cuccinelli is the Governor that Virginia needs.