Virginia Governor’s Race Nasty, They Say

TIME says Cuccinelli vs. McAuliffe is "The Dirtiest, Nastiest, Low-Down Campaign In America."

Virginia Governor Forum

When I stumbled on TIME‘s headline “The Dirtiest, Nastiest, Low-Down Campaign In America: Cuccinelli vs. McAuliffe” earlier, I was somewhat surprised. I live in Virginia and have been only vaguely aware of a campaign at all. Since neither party opted to hold primaries, instead selecting their candidates in proverbial-smoke-filled rooms (smoking in public spaces is illegal in Virgina nowadays) and I watch essentially no live television outside of football season, I’ve been blissfully unassaulted. Thus far, none of the robo-calls that brought me THIS CLOSE to canceling my phone service during last fall’s presidential race and hardly any bumper stickers or yard signs have come out yet.

But, apparently, what campaigning there has been has been dirty, nasty, and low-down. Or, elsewise, all the other campaigns have been clean, polite, and high-brow. Then again, it’s an off-off year, so how many campaigns could there be?

At any rate:

The campaigns of Republican Ken Cuccinelli and Democrat Terry McAuliffe, the two major candidates for Governor in Virginia this year, both claim to be focused on positive messages about growing the economy and creating jobs in the Old Dominion. But nobody believes them.

“It’s a race to the bottom,” said one Republican operative close to the Cuccinelli campaign, a feeling shared by McAuliffe aides as well. A poll released Wednesday by the Democrat-leaning Public Policy Polling found both candidates suffering from underwater favorability ratings. More Virginia voters have become undecided on the race over the past five months.

A day later, when both men spoke at a luncheon in Richmond about government transparency, they spent their time attacking each other. Cuccinelli challenged McAulliffe to 15 debates, instead of the agreed upon five, and demanded the Democrat release more tax records. McAulliffe harped on Cuccinelli’s failure to disclose gifts and stock holdings in a Virginia dietary supplement company. It was just another day in what is shaping up to be the ugliest campaign in the country this year.

Not all of the nastiness is the fault of the candidates. Both campaigns have been at the receiving end of two of the most brutal outside opposition research and attack efforts by dueling Super PACs: Democratic-leaning American Bridge and Republican-backing America Rising.

The report goes on to recount in excruciating detail the back-and-forth that has ensued and somehow escaped my attention. I got bored before coming across anything that struck me as beyond the banal.

FILED UNDER: 2013 Election, US Politics, , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Mikey says:

    This one’s putting me to sleep already. I did get a phone call from the Cuccinelli campaign, which I deleted from my answering machine as soon as it was done.

  2. DC Loser says:


    The Democrats are having a primary for Lt. Gov this month since there are two candidates. There is no primary for the governor candidate since McAuliffe is running unopposed.

  3. It was just another day in what is shaping up to be the ugliest campaign in the country this year.

    Uh, that’s a pretty easy designation since there’s only two states holding general elections this year.

  4. NickTamere says:

    I’m glad that TIME granted anonymity to that “one Republican operative close to the Cuccinelli campaign” and those”McAuliffe aides” as well, otherwise we wouldn’t get this hard hitting analysis of “they started saying mean stuff* first”.

    *”mean stuff” seems to consist of “true things we don’t like to hear repeated”.

  5. Moosebreath says:

    @Timothy Watson:

    “that’s a pretty easy designation since there’s only two states holding general elections this year.”

    True, though there are some lesser elections, including NYC Mayor. That could get ugly, especially if Weiner’s personal history becomes a major topic.

  6. stonetools says:

    The political campaign machines have to keep in practice in the off years. This is practice for 2014 .
    Because of the polarization, I expect a pretty fierce campaign.

  7. Tyrell says:

    Evidently Time has forgotten the Lee Atwater campaigns.