Republican Ken Cuccinelli brought a circumspect, serious tone to his final debate against Democrat Terry McAuliffe. With less than two weeks before voters go to the polls, Cuccinelli tried to paint McAuliffe as a Washington insider who had done nothing for Virginia. “Terry McAuliffe literally did nothing for Virginia or Virginians before deciding to run for governor. Nothing,” Cuccinelli said at the start of the debate.
Cuccinelli frequently focused on the lack of specifics in McAuliffe’s announced plans if elected Governor. “Those are platitudes. They’re not plans,” Cuccinelli said. “I like those too. I like education. I like puppies. But I don’t bring a puppy home if I don’t have a plan for how I’m going to deal with that puppy. … And he’ s all puppy and no plan.”
At one point, Cuccinelli offered his own speaking time to McAuliffe to detail how he would pay for his proposed programs. “We have a program in place, and if I don’t pay for them, I don’t get them,” Cuccinelli said. “It’s not like Washington where Terry comes from. We have to pay for the things we propose”. McAuliffe responded that he would look for “inefficiencies” in government.
Most polls show McAuliffe with a slim, but steady lead in the race. A poll published by Breibart News on Thursday, however, shows the race narrowing, as voter attention turns from the recent government shutdown to the failing ObamaCare rollout. The poll also found that Libertarian Richard Sarvis garnering 10% of the vote, placing him as a potential spoiler in the race.
Cuccinelli tried several times during the debate to tie McAuliffe to the troubled healthcare law. “Terry not only supported Obamacare, he didn’t think it went far enough. Can you imagine?” McAuliffe acknowledged the failings in the opening of health exchanges under ObamaCare, saying it “doesn’t work” and those responsible should be “held accountable.”
McAuliffe continued this attack that Cuccinelli was too “extreme” for Virginia. Reprising the Democrats “war on women” theme from last year, McAuliffe even suggested that women wouldn’t move to Virginia if his opponent was elected.
There were no “gotcha” moments or game-changers in the debate. Both candidates are upside-down in the polls, with higher unfavorable ratings than favorables. Most ad spending has been on negative messages, with McAuliffe and his allies dominating the airwaves.
That phase of the campaign, though, is coming to a close. Attention now turns to turnout and rallying supporters to vote. Off-year elections are notoriously hard to predict, as turnout is far below that in presidential years. McAuliffe is closing his campaign with a series of rallies with former President Bill Clinton. Cuccinelli is holding a series of events with Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) and LA Gov. Bobby Jindal.
With the final debate over, the battle of the bases begins.