Down in the polls, trailing in campaign spending and battling a wide gender gap, state Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli was undaunted Wednesday.
“We’re still in the margin of error in the polls,” the Republican gubernatorial candidate said during a stop at the GOP's Charlottesville-area headquarters. “This is my fifth election. In my previous four, my opponents outraised and outspent me in all four.”
He spent the day campaigning with South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who dismissed polls showing Cuccinelli far behind Democrat Terry McAuliffe among women with Election Day less than three weeks away.
“The women in Virginia will do their homework in this race,” Haley said. “They will realize that for the good of economic success in Virginia, for our families, for our lifestyles and for the future of Virginia, women will go for Ken Cuccinelli.”
A Christopher Newport University poll earlier this week showed McAuliffe ahead by seven percentage points over Cuccinelli among likely voters. McAuliffe led among women, 51 percent to 37 percent. He similarly is dominating campaign spending.
The former Democratic National Committee chairman has built much of his campaign around depicting Cuccinelli as disregarding women.
Democrats said Haley’s support of Cuccinelli does nothing to refute that charge.
“Just because he has a woman standing with him doesn’t mean he’s changed his views about women’s issues,” said state House Minority Leader David J. Toscano, D-Charlottesville.
He cited Cuccinelli’s support of the “personhood bill” that would recognize life at the moment of conception and the attorney general’s efforts to curtail access to contraception.
“He has fully supported all the efforts to make it more difficult for women to get access to reproductive health services,” Toscano said. “He has made a career out of these efforts and one would expect he would continue that approach if he were elected governor.”
Haley said Democrats like Toscano pigeonhole women voters.
“They’re totally dismissing the fact that women are smart, we think for ourselves,” Haley said. “We don’t decide based on one issue. We decide who we’re going to vote for based on a lot of issues”
Those issues, Haley said, are the same for women as they are for men.
“As a woman, I care about jobs in my state, the economy of the country, I care about a good lifestyle for my family and my kids to make sure they’re going to be prosperous,” she said.
Haley touts herself as the “jobs governor,” and she said much of the same about Cuccinelli.
“You’ve got to have a tax environment that’s healthy. You’ve got to have a workforce that’s strong. And you’ve got to be able to fight the unions,” Haley said.
Cuccinelli said he and Haley had spent much of their visit Wednesday espousing the benefits of his tax plan to Virginians.
“I’ve proposed a tax plan that’s worth about a $700 tax cut to a family of four, roughly, and worth 58,000 new jobs according to economists,” the attorney general said. “My opponent proposes spending on the order of about $3.5 billion, which is about a $17 tax increase for a family of four.”
“If we’re going to see jobs and the economy be successful in Virginia, we’ve got to make sure we do it with somebody who has good tax policies, which Ken has shown, and somebody who understands what the business environment looks like, which Ken has shown,” Haley said.
Haley faces battles of her own in South Carolina, where unemployment is higher than the national average at about 8 percent and her approval ratings earlier this year were less than 50 percent. But that isn’t the real problem, said Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics.
“I would think her name recognition in Virginia would be under 10 percent, and that’s being generous,” Sabato said. “They’re just trying to get photos of Cuccinelli on the front pages of all the papers with a powerful woman.”
Sabato said Haley’s presence in Virginia was a thinly veiled attempt to drum up support among women voters and tea party conservatives, some of whom Cuccinelli is losing to Libertarian Robert Sarvis.
“She’s a twofer,” Sabato said. “She’s a woman and she’s also a tea party governor.”
Sabato said Haley’s endorsement will more than likely have little effect on polls.
“I’ve never found endorsements to be all that effective unless they’re surprising,” Sabato said. “A surprise would be a Democratic governor endorsing Cuccinelli.”
McAuliffe has collected endorsements from Republicans such as Virginia Beach Mayor Will Sessoms and political strategist Judy Ford Wason.
It’s less likely that McAuliffe will get a boost from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s endorsement, Sabato said. She is expected to campaign with McAuliffe over the weekend in Northern Virginia.
It will be Clinton’s first public campaign event since she left the president’s cabinet in February.