What do you think? Leave a respectful comment.

Virginia Governor’s Race Spices Up 2013

Watch the Virginia candidates for governor debate in the live stream player above beginning at 11 a.m. EDT July 20. Republican Ken Cuccinelli and Democrat Terry McAuliffe will field questions from moderator Judy Woodruff.

The Morning Line

This fall the eyes of the political world will be fixed on Virginia, with the state playing host to the most competitive race of 2013, as businessman and former Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe faces off against Ken Cuccinelli, the state’s Republican attorney general.

With the Old Dominion having served as a hotly-contested battleground state in the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections, the result of this year’s gubernatorial contest, just like the 2009 battle won by Republican Bob McDonnell, will be looked at for national implications heading into the 2014 midterms.

A trio of polls released this week ahead of Saturday’s first debate between the two candidates reveal a close race. McAuliffe leads Cuccinelli by four points in two of the surveys. He has a 43 percent to 39 percent advantage in a poll conducted by Quinnipiac University, and a 41 percent to 37 percent lead in the one done by the left-leaning Public Policy Polling.

A Roanoke College poll found Cuccinelli out front with 37 percent and McAuliffe with 31 percent. More than a quarter of respondents in the Roanoke survey said they were undecided.

One of the interesting trends to watch going forward will be how the candidates split the support among women voters. President Barack Obama won female voters in Virginia by seven points over John McCain in 2008, and by nine points over Mitt Romney last year. But in his decisive victory over Democrat Creigh Deeds in 2009, McDonnell flipped the score, winning women by eight points, 54 percent to 46 percent.

Democrats have attacked Cuccinelli for being outside the mainstream of Virginia voters when it comes to his views on women’s issues, including the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women’s Act, and limiting abortion rights.

Cuccinelli, meanwhile, has attempted to soften his image with women voters. His first television ad of the campaign, released in April and featuring his wife as narrator, focused on his work on women’s issues and human trafficking.

For the moment, at least, it appears that McAuliffe has the edge when it comes to the gender gap. The Democrat leads by 16 points among women according to the Quinnipiac poll, while Cuccinelli has an eight-point advantage among men.

Outside forces could also play a role in the race, with the ethical cloud surrounding McDonnell that has consumed much of the oxygen in the Virginia political scene right now.

The current GOP governor has come under intense scrutiny for failing to disclose $145,000 in cash and gifts he and his family received from a wealthy campaign donor in 2011 and 2012.

The scandal does not seem to have impacted Cuccinelli, with 70 percent of voters saying the developments make no difference in their decision this November, according to the Quinnipiac survey.

On Thursday, a state prosecutor found no evidence of criminal wrongdoing on Cuccinelli’s part for failing to report stock holdings he had in Star Scientific and gifts from the company’s chief executive, Jonnie Williams Sr., the individual at the center of the McDonnell controversy.

Heading into Saturday’s debate, Politico’s Alexander Burns notes that Democrats have their own concerns about McAuliffe’s campaign:

Despite all the breaks their candidate has caught this year, what still keeps Democrats awake at night is chronic uncertainty over whether McAuliffe can rein in his showman’s instincts, hit his marks and present himself as, you know, gubernatorial.

McAuliffe’s friends and allies freely acknowledge that’s not necessarily an easy sell for a man who once waved a bottle of rum around on national television, while clad in a floral shirt, on the day of Puerto Rico’s 2008 Democratic presidential primary. The same expansive personality that helped McAuliffe bank nearly twice as much cash as Cuccinelli last month is also a big fat target for his opponent to bait, prod and attack.

PBS NewsHour senior correspondent Judy Woodruff will moderate Saturday’s debate, which is sponsored by the Virginia Bar Association and is being held at The Homestead in Hot Springs.

The VBA and the NewsHour will live-stream the debate beginning at 11 a.m. ET.


  • Politico’s Josh Bresnahan and Manu Raju examine the splintering of the Senate Republican Conference.

  • The city of Detroit filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy Thursday, making it the largest U.S. municipality to do so ever and marking the rock bottom of a long fall for a city that was once the crown jewel of American industry. The Detroit Free Press reported leaders say the city can’t pay its bills and has $20 billion in liabilities. And Daniel Howes of the Detroit News writes the move could have wide, negative implications for city retirees, the municipal bond market and localities across the state.

  • The Senate confirmed leaders of the Labor Department and Environmental Protection Agency Thursday, further finalizing President Barack Obama’s second-term cabinet. Labor Secretary Tom Perez earned a 54 to 46 party-line vote, and EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy received a vote of 59 to 40.

  • Baby Veronica will return to live with her adoptive parents, a South Carolina court ruled. The case involving the toddler, heard by the U.S. Supreme Court this year, had been a closely watched test of the Indian Child Welfare Act. Here is Marcia Coyle’s analysis of the case on the NewsHour in April.

  • The National Review’s Robert Costa reports that Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., will headline a Republican dinner in Iowa this fall to mark the birthday of Hawkeye State Gov. Terry Branstad.

  • National Journal offers a detailed portrait of where Mr. Obama’s top advisers and officials grew up and went to college, and asks: “Is the Obama administration elitist?”

  • Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report dubs 2014 “The Cross-Wind Election.”

  • New York GOP Rep. Peter King told the New York Observer that he’s looking at a run for president.

  • The House is considering a bill that would rewrite No Child Left Behind, President George W. Bush’s signature education policy.

  • Former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer went on the Colbert Report Thursday to explain his bid for New York City comptroller.

  • Matt Waite published on Poynter’s site an explainer on how local journalists can map political relationships and campaign donations.

  • Rep. Trey Radel, R-Fla., explains on Buzzfeed why he’s “a hip hop conservative.”

  • The American Mustache Institute, the world’s foremost facial hair research and advocacy group, is relocating from St. Louis to Pittsburgh. Pennsylvania Sens. Bob Casey and Pat Toomey released a joint statement applauding the news. “The American Mustache Institute’s decision confirmed what we already knew — that Pittsburgh is not only one of the country’s most livable cities but one of the most stylish. From the Handlebar to the Horseshoe, Pittsburghers can do it all,” Casey said in the statement.

  • Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., and Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., have been hosting burgers and beer luncheons at Kelly’s Irish Times on Capitol Hill so they can discuss tax policy with colleagues from both parties.

  • BuzzFeed gives seven reasons why Harry Reid is a guy you don’t want to mess with.

NEWSHOUR: #notjustaTVshow

  • Politics Desk Assistant Mallory Sofastaii looks at the bipartisan group of legislators No Labels.

  • Ray Suarez discussed the conviction of Alexei Navalny and its significance with Fiona Hill of the Brookings Institution.

  • Special correspondent John Tulenko reported on a Connecticut school district using a unique approach to bilingual education.


For more political coverage, visit our politics page.

Sign up here to receive the Morning Line in your inbox every morning.

Questions or comments? Email Christina Bellantoni at cbellantoni-at-newshour-dot-org.

Follow the politics team on Twitter:

The Latest