Kirsten Andersen

Opinion

5 ways Ken Cuccinelli proved a social conservative can win Virginia (and the nation)

Kirsten Andersen
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RICHMOND, VA, November 8, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – With the Virginia election behind us and Planned Parenthood-backed Terry McAuliffe the new governor-elect, left-leaning pundits and mainstream journalists will be busy spinning the narrative that Ken Cuccinelli’s pro-life, socially traditional beliefs cost him the election. They’ll point out that Republican Chris Christie won his race in an overwhelmingly blue state by ditching his principles on social issues and drifting to the Left. They’ll further argue that all of this is proof that Republicans need to keep running people like Mitt Romney and John McCain for president – so-called ‘moderates’ who talk a good game about tax cuts but avoid sticky social issues like abortion, gun control, and gay “marriage.”

Don’t listen to them. Here, in no particular order, are five key reasons why the pundits are dead wrong:

  1. Cuccinelli almost won …

This race was a squeaker. The gap between McAuliffe and Cuccinelli was less than 30,000 votes out of more than two million cast. Had the Democrats not funded Libertarian candidate Robert Sarvis to enter the race and siphon voters away from Cuccinelli, it is not only likely, but probable that Cuccinelli would have taken it.

  1. despite the fact that he was outspent by millions.

The closeness of this race belies the David-vs.-Goliath dynamic that went into play the day McAuliffe announced his candidacy. As a former fundraiser for Bill and Hillary Clinton, and former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, McAuliffe had easy access to some of the deepest pockets on Earth. He exploited that access to the fullest, collecting a record-smashing $34 million – two thirds of it from wealthy out-of-state donors – for his campaign war chest. Meanwhile, his close connections to Democratic cash cows like Planned Parenthood and the big national unions paid off in a big way. Planned Parenthood alone spent well over a million dollars targeting Cuccinelli with paid advertising denouncing him as an extremist and claiming, falsely, that he wants to outlaw contraception.

Had Cuccinelli been able to set the record straight with more responsive, targeted advertising of his own, things might have turned out differently. But the GOP’s power players largely refused to fund him, deeming his campaign doomed to fail because of his pro-life, socially conservative views. Despite McAuliffe’s tremendous financial advantage, the RNC spent $6 million less on Cuccinelli than they did on his predecessor Bob McDonnell in 2009, and in the all-important final month of the campaign, the Republican Governors’ Association all but abandoned the race as well, their previous financial support dwindling to next to nothing, just when it mattered the most.

  1. Cuccinelli won the coveted ‘independent’ voting bloc by a wide margin.

In a swing state like Virginia, you hear a lot of talk about “independent” or “swing” voters, those voters who do not identify with either major party. Conventional wisdom says that a candidate in a swing state (or anyone running for president, since the United States as a whole has a political makeup much like a swing state) must court these votes by playing to the middle, especially on social issues like abortion, gun control, and gay “marriage.” Cuccinelli not only didn’t hide from his conservative record, his opponent hammered him relentlessly on his pro-life, pro-family views. Any voter who didn’t know Cuccinelli was a rock-solid social conservative must have been living under said rock for most of 2013. Yet, Cuccinelli outperformed McAuliffe among independent voters by nearly 10 points, grabbing 47 percent of their support compared to his opponent’s 38 percent.

  1. Cuccinelli performed better than expected among women.

Despite persistent “War on Women” messaging from the McAuliffe camp and a multimillion-dollar advertising onslaught by pro-abortion groups like Planned Parenthood, apocalyptic predictions of a 24-point gender gap among female voters proved unfounded. Yes, McAuliffe won the women’s vote, but only by nine percent – which happens to be the exact percentage by which President Obama outperformed Mitt Romney, a social moderate, among Virginia women in 2012.

Yes, that’s right. The millions spent by McAuliffe and his friends at Planned Parenthood in order to smear Cuccinelli as a card-carrying member of the He-Man Woman-Hater’s Club gained McAuliffe exactly zero percentage points among women. Zero. Zip. None. According to the Susan B. Anthony List, the McAuliffe campaign ran 5,600 ads attacking Cuccinelli for his pro-life views, in an attempt to scare women into the voting booth. Bottom line? It didn’t work.

  1. Cuccinelli ran a state-level campaign against a national political machine – and came close to defeating it.

From a campaign-management perspective, Virginia’s election this year was a little like putting a small-town high school football team up against the New England Patriots. While Cuccinelli’s staff and on-the-ground support was made up mostly of the obscure state-level operatives common to gubernatorial bids, Terry McAuliffe had the benefit of a national-level political team more accustomed to managing presidential campaigns.

McAuliffe’s campaign manager was Robby Mook, a veteran of both Hillary Clinton’s and Howard Dean’s presidential runs who is said to be a favorite to lead Clinton’s campaign if she runs in 2016. At the same time, McAuliffe’s donor list reads like a “who’s who” of the kind of high-dollar, high-visibility donors that normally dominate presidential campaigns. Outgoing NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg spent $1.1 million of his own money supporting McAuliffe. Billionaire environmental activist Tom Steyer spent more than $2 million. Planned Parenthood spent nearly $2 million. McAuliffe also threw a $15,000-per-plate October fundraising dinner in California – hosted by Steven Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg – where he offered celebrity attendees the chance to rub elbows with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (also a campaign donor). That kind of over-the-top publicity and spending had previously been more or less unheard of in the Virginia governor’s race, where candidates, prevented by state law from running for re-election, compete for the prize of a single, four-year term in office.

For Cuccinelli, there were no Spielberg-hosted campaign galas in Beverly Hills, no speeches from ex-presidents or their wives. Cuccinelli ran for governor of Virginia. McAuliffe was running for something else. One gets the sense that for McAuliffe, Virginia is only a stepping stone, a means to an end, placing him in good stead for a Vice Presidential run alongside Hillary Clinton, or maybe a future cabinet post. Still, despite the uneven playing field, Cuccinelli almost took McAuliffe down. If everything else had been equal – if Republican power players had been willing to fund him, if he had advisers accustomed to competing on a national scale – it’s likely he would have taken the race.

If nothing else, the Virginia election proved that social conservatism is far from a campaign killer. Yet the RNC’s let their fear of being tainted by Cuccinelli’s social views lead them to withhold funds that could have purchased them a much-needed symbolic victory, in a swing state many pundits are calling “America’s Test Kitchen” because of its demographics, which closely mirror the nation at large.

Meanwhile, Terry McAuliffe’s big-spending, high-profile campaign backers are busily spinning this as a win for their side, rather than the near-brush-with-death it actually was.

When David goes up against Goliath, and Goliath has to bring hired muscle with him just to make sure he survives, you know David is doing something right.

In the Bible, David had God on his side. Unfortunately for Cuccinelli, he had to depend on the GOP.

So, Republicans, I hope you’ve learned a lesson from all of this. Here, as they say in the business, is your “takeaway”: From pro-life candidates, you have nothing to fear … except fear itself.

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