Ken Cuccinelli by Gage Skidmore
's tempestuous, often surreal quest for the governorship of the state of Virginia is now going exceedingly badly. His poll numbers are dropping off precipitously. According to a poll released by Roanoke College on October 8, 2013, Democratic rival Terry McAuliffe leads the Republican by six points, 40% to 34%. His numbers are even worse in the Christopher Newport University's survey released that same day: in this one, he trails McAuliffe by nine points. This report also notes that Cuccinelli is swiftly losing support among women, independents, and fiscal conservatives, who are turned off by his close affiliation with the Religious Right. The October 7 Politico survey also stated that the Democratic challenger leads the Virginia Attorney General by nine points.
For Cuccinelli, such dismal numbers suggest strongly that his battle for the governorship is a losing one. The Virginia elections are not far away. It will be difficult, if not impossible, for Cuccinelli to overcome such lop-sided figures.
At this point, even fellow conservatives are abandoning him. For a long time, Cuccinelli was an ardent supporter of Ted Cruz, the notorious Senate firebrand. Now, with Cruz's own poll numbers in sharp decline, the Virginia Attorney General seems to be distancing himself from the Texas politician. As Politico itself reported on October 5, Cuccinelli recently attended a Richmond gala with Cruz. This joint appearance helped to re-energize his critics. By attending the gala with Cruz, such critics claimed, he was offering his support for the crippling government shutdown. That's bad enough, but Cuccinelli's treatment of the embattled Cruz at the event alienated many members of his base. Reportedly, he avoided being photographed with the Senator, did not acknowledge him in his public comments, and even left the event before Cruz rose to speak. To angry conservatives, such icy aloofness indicates that Cuccinelli is cowardly and willing to desert a political comrade when he is down. Such clumsy missteps appear to be typical of Cuccinelli, however, and they also strongly suggest that his candidacy is more-or-less dead in the water.
His candidacy may be doomed, but he's only a state politician. Still, all Republican eyes are viewing Virginia closely. Why would they be doing so? Traditionally, Virginia has been a conservative state. It was even a member of the Confederacy. Given Virginia's traditional conservatism, Cuccinelli should be cruising to a breezy victory. He isn't, and neither is his running mate, the equally fiery E.W. Jackson. Interestingly, the more that this duo tries to convince voters of their bona-fide conservative credentials, the more mainstream Virginians seem to ridicule and condemn them. The reasons for conservatism's decline in the state are numerous: changing demographics, evolving mores and religious beliefs, an explosion of federal workers who tend to view government in benign terms, etc. It is, without a doubt, though, declining, which helps to explain why Barack Obama won the state in both 2008 and in 2012.
That's a big, sobering problem for national Republicans. By now, the Republican Party--so rigidly conservative--has written off populous Blue States like New York and California. They may never go Republican again, not in Presidential elections, anyway. Thus, they depend on the swing states. If conservative Republicans cannot compete in a reliably conservative Southern state, then how can they compete in swing states like Minnesota, Colorado, and Nevada?
For Republicans, Cuccinelli's crumbling campaign bodes national disaster.