The first debate in the contest to become the next governor of Virginia between Democratic nominee Terry McAuliffe and Republican nominee Ken Cuccinelli was held on Saturday morning at the Homestead resort in Hot Spring, Virginia. Conservative commentators saw the the event as a big win for Cuccinelli, while the Democratic Party of Virginia and the McAuliffe campaign itself failed to even make the obligatory immediate post-debate claims of victory, according to Shaun Kenney, editor of the influential Bearing Drift, a blog about Virginia politics.
Appearing on Sirius XM’s “Breitbart News Sunday” radio program, Kenney told host Stephen K. Bannon, “Terry McAuliffe was very rattled walking away from this first debate.”
Cuccinelli scored points early when he suggested that McAuliffe should really be running for governor of Mississippi, rather than Virginia, since the company which McAuliffe served as chairman from 2010 to 2012 chose to locate its proposed electric vehicle manufacturing facility there rather than in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
“The only candidate in this race who has chased business out of Virginia is you,” Cuccinelli told McAuliffe. “You walked right over the people of Martinsville on your way to Mississippi. Instead of putting Virginians first, you put Terry first … a common theme for you.”
In the best line of the debate, Cuccinelli told McAuliffe he was running for governor in the wrong state. “OK, so you picked Mississippi. Go run for governor of Mississippi.”
According to Bearing Drift’s Kenney, the November 2013 election for governor in Virginia will set the tone for the 2016 Presidential election. ” Terry McAuliffe is the prime fundraiser for the Clintons, and there is whispering Hillary Clinton will run for President in 2016,” he told host Stephen K. Bannon. “In 2008 then Governor of Virginia Tim Kaine endorsed Barack Obama for president. Virginia is not Iowa or New Hampshire, but the endorsement of the governor of Virginia can have an impact on the race.”
Kenney noted that the race is “pretty much neck and neck at this point.” He added that “McAuliffe is not well known and his negatives are low.” Cuccinelli’s challenge, Kenney pointed out, is to bring McAuliffe’s negatives to the attention of Virginia’s voters.
According to Kenney, Cuccinelli succeeded in the first debate, catching McAuliffe off guard and unprepared to respond to his attacks. “Terry McAuliffe actually went up with notes… After the debate was over [he] had to be debriefed for 15 minutes by his staff before he spoke with the press.”
Kenney concluded that, “in the aftermath of the debate you saw Republicans high fiving each other… and the Democrats on their back legs going … we’ve got Terry McAuliffe actually behaving like Terry McAuliffe!”
Richard Viguerie’s ConservativeHQ.com was also critical of McAuliffe’s debate performance, concluding that “Virginia’s principled limited government constitutional conservative Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli hammered Clinton confidant Terry McAuliffe in the first debate between the two candidates for Governor of Virginia.”
According to their analysis, “Cuccinelli did a great job of letting Terry McAuliffe publicly admit that he wants to mirror the same economically destructive agenda pushed by the Washington elite and President Obama.”
The debate, sponsored by the Virginia Bar Association, was not broadcast live and was seen on USTREAM by a small audience estimated at around 2,500.