Rasmussen Reports released a poll on Tuesday that shows Democrat Terry McAuliffe leads Republican Ken Cuccinelli by 17 points, 50% to 33%, in the race to become Virginia’s next governor. Libertarian candidate Robert Sarvis is in third place with 8%. The poll of 1,000 likely Virginia voters was conducted on October 20 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3%.
Though McAuliffe’s lead in Tuesday’s poll was significantly higher than in previous polls, it was just the latest information that confirmed the bad news Virginia Republicans have known for several months. It is clear that the Cuccinelli campaign is headed towards a disastrous outcome in November unless dramatic changes are undertaken. But, with only two weeks remaining until election day, it may be a case of too little, too late.
Conservatives and Tea Party activists have been sounding the warning bells with the consultants running the Cuccinelli campaign for months. Given the extraordinary vulnerabilities of the Democratic candidate, Terry McAuliffe, mired as he is in dual investigations by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Department of Homeland Security of GreenTech Automotive, many Virginians are wondering how a candidate so beloved by the conservative base has run such a weak campaign.
McAuliffe’s campaign has succeeded in framing the election around social issues by outspending Cuccinelli at least two to one in television advertising. The pace of that outspending appears to have accelerated recently. Several Virginia residents told Breitbart News on Tuesday that Cuccinelli has been hammered mercilessly over the past several weeks with an onslaught of highly negative attack ads, while his own mild responses have been seen but not remembered.
Tea Party activists in Virginia are not surprised that the Cuccinelli campaign has performed so poorly. The problem, they believe, began when Cuccinelli hired a campaign team staffed heavily by Washington insider Republican consultants.
That error by itself could have been overcome, but the Cuccinelli team then proceeded to give Tea Party activists and groups around the Commonwealth the cold shoulder. Eager to help Cuccinelli win by providing the power and energy of a vigorous ground game, Tea Party activists were given no opportunity to be involved in the campaign.
This fundamental strategic error drew all of the energy out of the Cuccinelli campaign, and was compounded on August 15 by Cuccinelli’s own ill-advised criticism of the grassroots for their lack of interest in volunteering for his campaign. Activists throughout the Commonwealth saw Cuccinelli’s comments as a public slap in the face, and many have subsequently washed their hands of both the candidate and the campaign team.
Rather than working with the grassroots on the development of a ground game and get-out-the-vote infrastructure, the Cuccinelli campaign has relied on television ads and press releases. Some of these press releases have been considered sophomoric by Tea Party activists.
An “RRR” spoof poll released by the Cuccinelli campaign in late August is the most visible example of the campaign’s communications missteps. In an effort to counter the polls released by the PPP company, a well known left leaning polling firm, all of which show McAuliffe with a strong lead and Cuccinelli with high negatives, the Cuccinelli campaign has issued a series of press releases about phony polls conducted by the fake “RRR” (Republican Republican Republican) polling firm that purportedly show Cuccinelli with a significant lead.
Tea Party activists in Virginia are reluctant to publicly criticize the Cuccinelli campaign because of their loyalty and affection for Cuccinelli personally. However, they have been eager to offer suggestions to Attorney General Cuccinelli on how he can turn his campaign around. Unfortunately, few, if any of them have been able to even obtain a hearing from the Cuccinelli campaign team to communicate these views.
Larry Nordvig, Executive Director of the Richmond Tea Party, told Breitbart News last month that “conservatives are highly concerned about Obamacare, immigration, and moral decline, and are looking for reassurance and leadership in those areas. Attorney General Cuccinelli has not taken a hard stand on those issues. The net effect is that he’s not exciting his base, which dampens campaign volunteer activism. “
But for Nordvig when he spoke with Breitbart in September, “re-engaging his base” was “even more critical for Attorney General Cuccinelli.”
“Cuccinelli is not going to win the money race,” Nordvig said. “That means he will stand, or fall, based on grassroots support. He has got to start reassuring conservatives that he will fight for their deepest-held beliefs. Oh, and it wouldn’t hurt to court the Tea Party a little more,” Nordvig added. “We’re the major component of the grassroots support he needs to win.”
Unfortunately for Cuccinelli, it is virtually impossible to mount an effective ground game on just two weeks notice. Such an effort requires months to develop an infrastructure of volunteers and systems.
“I hate to say this,” one Virginia source told Breitbart News on Tuesday, “but unless grassroots lightning strikes in the next two weeks, get used to saying ‘Governor McAuliffe’ . . . and ‘President Clinton.’ “