It’s only been hours since Republican Ken Cuccinelli narrowly lost his bid for governor to Democrat Terry McAuliffe, but some conservatives are now arguing that Cuccinelli should turn his focus to a 2014 Senate campaign.
Conservative writer Quin Hillyer is the first person to openly make a full-throated case for Cuccinelli to throw his hat into the ring to take on incumbent Sen. Mark Warner, a popular Democrat in the Commonwealth.
“The best news from Ken Cuccinelli’s hugely disappointing loss in Virginia’s gubernatorial contest yesterday is that Cuccinelli is now free to run for U.S. Senate against Mark Warner,” Hillyer wrote.
“Not that Cuccinelli will want to hear this now,” Hillyer elaborated. “He has a large family, and his day job as state attorney general will end in the new year, and he will need to make money somehow. That’s tough to do while running statewide for office. And it’s even tougher when one is already exhausted and battered from a long and brutal statewide race. But Cuccinelli is actually well positioned, politically, to make a go of it, even against an incumbent as seemingly bulletproof as Warner has been.”’
Among Hillyer’s arguments: The nasty attacks McAuliffe used against Cuccinelli would “look redundant and a little desperate” in a Senate campaign; Cuccinelli could likely count on more support from the Republican establishment who care about winning control of the Senate; and Cuccinelli has proven that “ObamaCare will be an albatross around donkey necks next fall as well, and especially around the necks of senators such as Warner, without whose vote the dreadful law would not have passed.”
“Cuccinelli’s loss this week surely isn’t the end of his political career,” Hillyer said. “It has more the feel of Ronald Reagan’s loss to Gerald Ford in 1976, laying the groundwork for triumph to come.”
While conservatives may like the idea of a Cuccinelli campaign again, the attorney general has done nothing yet to indicate he’s actually thinking about a run yet.
One Republican operative who has worked in Virginia politics referenced Cuccinelli’s gubernatorial campaign and said the “effectiveness of the Obamacare message” at the end of the Cuccinelli campaign “certainly provides fodder for folks to speculate that strong incumbents like Warner and [New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen] Shaheen could be vulnerable.”
But the operative argued there “are likely to be better opportunities for Cuccinelli in the near, but not too near, future.”
“I think another loss this close would make it really difficult for him to run a 3rd time for higher office,” the operative said.
The Republican pointed out that Warner is much “more disciplined, experienced and better liked” than McAuliffe.
“The tight timeframe means voters would have less time to forget about some of the very effective negative messages McAuliffe used,” the operative said. “The Warner campaign’s work to negatively define their opponent would essentially be done for them.”
The 2014 Senate race will be an uphill battle for Republicans. A PPP poll this summer of hypothetical match ups indicated that Warner holds double digit leads over numerous possible GOP opponents.