Ken Cuccinelli is spending the final day of his campaign for VA Governor barnstorming the Commonwealth, holding rallies with the entire GOP ticket and Sen. Marco Rubio. His final event, however, says everything about the race on the eve of voting. Monday night, Cuccinelli will hold his final rally in Richmond with former Congressman Ron Paul. The appearance by Dr. Paul, at the campaign’s last event, is indicative of the out-sized role Libertarians are playing in the VA race.
Quinnipiac University’s final poll of the Virginia race finds Democrat Terry McAuliffe with a six point lead over Cuccinelli. McAuliffe has 46% to 40% for Cuccinelli. Libertarian Robert Sarvis has 8% support, throwing uncertainty into the final outcome.
Sarvis has run almost no campaign, by any conventional standards. His campaign has raised just around $200,000 in the entire race. The Democrat and Republican candidates have together raised well over $50 million for the campaign. The last major independent candidate in Virginia, Russ Potts, raised well over $1 million and won just 2% of the vote in 2005. In the Quinnipiac poll, just 14% of Sarvis voters said their support was “for” him, rather than against the other candidates. Something different is going on this year in Virginia.
McAuliffe has the support of 93% of Democrats. Cuccinelli has the support of just 85% of Republicans, a sign that a segment of the GOP base is not engaged in the campaign. An Emerson College poll last week found Sarvis pulling his strongest support in traditionally Republican areas of the commonwealth.
Bringing in Ron Paul to close the campaign is just the latest sign that the Cuccinelli campaign is courting the conservative, libertarian vote in the final days. Paul is an icon to a large number of libertarians. On a conference call with reporters on Friday, the Republican candidate stressed several times that he was the most “pro-liberty” candidate.
With turnout expected to be low on Tuesday, Cuccinelli still has a path to victory. It is telling, though, that in the final hours of the campaign he has to make an overt appeal to a block of voters who ought to already be part of his coalition. There is a larger message for Republicans nationwide. Ignore the conservative, libertarian voters at your peril.