RICHMOND, Va. — Each looking for momentum after their final formal debate, Republican Ken Cuccinelli and Democrat Terry McAuliffe cast the other as unacceptable to voters during separate appearances Friday at an NAACP statewide forum.
Neither gubernatorial candidate dramatically reshaped the campaign during Thursday evening’s debate but each was already looking ahead to a busy final week. Cuccinelli, the current attorney general, trails McAuliffe in the polls and is running out of time to turn around his campaign.
Cuccinelli chuckled that he was unlikely to narrow the gap with voters attending the NAACP forum.
“My odds of breaking 50 percent (with black voters) aren’t that good, and that’s OK,” Cuccinelli said.
But here he was, trying to round up enough votes, talking about his work to exonerate wrongly convicted individuals, improve schools and restoring voting rights to some nonviolent criminals. It was a message tailored to the civil rights organization.
“I’m committed to correcting the wrongs of our judicial system,” he said.
McAuliffe was the one more warmly received.
“Unfortunately, we just went through an absolutely ridiculous shutdown because of the tea party,” McAuliffe said, drawing cheers as he began his separate appearance.
He pledged to expand Medicaid programs to give 400,000 Virginians access to health care, a move Cuccinelli has called irresponsible.
Washington picks up the cost in the first years, with the state picking up the tab in future years.
“This is our money. We are bringing Virginia federal tax dollars back to us,” McAuliffe said.
The ongoing negative advertising blitz continued, with McAuliffe outspending Cuccinelli by a 10-to-1 margin this week. Next week is expected to yield an even greater gap.
In all, McAuliffe and Democrats are set to spend almost $12 million on ads since July.
Some of those ads have been critical of Cuccinelli’s opposition to abortion rights.
When asked about his stance, Cuccinelli said that, yes, he is against abortion rights.
“I’m pro-life. My opponent has made quite a lot of hay about that trying to scare women,” he said.
It has been effective. A Quinnipiac University poll this week found women backing McAuliffe by a 49 percent to 35 percent margin.
Cuccinelli and McAuliffe were slated again to share the stage Saturday morning at another forum. But neither campaign expected the event to provide a late-campaign shake-up that could top the wall-to-wall campaign ads.
Instead, the candidates’ aides were planning events with high-profile supporters to energize their political bases.
McAuliffe’s campaign announced Planned Parenthood’s Cecile Richards would join the campaign on Saturday, in an effort to remind voters that Cuccinelli is stridently against abortion rights.
A day later, McAuliffe was set to have former President Bill Clinton at his rallies.
And Cuccinelli was set to join Sen. Rand Paul, a tea party darling from Kentucky, at Liberty University on Monday. Both were set to address the students at the Jerry Falwell-founded Christian university before making other stops.
Then on Tuesday, Cuccinelli was scheduled to have Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal at events.
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