As has been widely documented, the Virginia gubernatorial campaign was incredibly negative. Those of us who live in Northern Virginia were regularly inundated with ads attacking Republican Ken Cuccinelli for his supposed “war on women.”
McAuliffe essentially paid no price for this. The media never really called him out for it — and I don’t recall ever seeing an ad that specifically pushed back on this. Even though McAuliffe brutalized Cuccinelli with negative attack ads (which were basically lies or half-truths), to the extent the media chastised him for it, it was usually portrayed as a pox on both your houses.
By the end of the race, it was essentially a case of unilateral nuclear disarmament. Cuccinelli had been abandoned. “I’m being outspent in this race,” he said on NewsChannel 8’s NewsTalk. “You’re being lied to a great deal about everything from contraception to methane gas.”
It’s easy to understand why he might be frustrated. But complaining to the press is not really fighting fire with fire. Where were the outside groups? (It’s possible the Cuccinelli team made a conscious decision not to expend precious resources for playing defense and, in essence, repeating the charges. It’s also possible his team feared that pushing back on the attacks might risk turning off some social conservative base voters. Regardless, someone should have done this.)
Here’s an example of one of McAuliffe’s most potent attack ads — which I saw dozens of times:
This ad goes out of its way to obfuscate and parse words (Cuccinelli “sponsored a bill that could have made” them illegal), but it would have been easy for some outside group to push back against the general narrative.
Here’s a sample script (I just penned) which might worked during the last week of the campaign (if someone put enough points behind it.)
NARRATOR: Why are Democrats lying about Ken Cuccinelli? (Insert ominous picture of Terry McAuliffe and other Democratic leaders.)
In recent weeks, some liberal groups have gone so far as to accuse Cuccinelli of “wanting to eliminate all forms of birth control.”
(Insert PolitiFact image):
But that’s just not true.
And that’s not the only lie Terry McAuliffe is telling about Ken Cuccinelli.
Terry McAuliffe is running another ad saying Ken Cuccinelli wants to make it harder for women to get divorced. Another lie. The non-partisan group PolitiFact says this charge “leaves out an important detail and context.”
If you’re sick of all the negative politics and smears, call Terry McAuliffe, and tell him it’s time for his friends to stop lying about Ken Cuccinelli’s record.
Paid for by citizens against politicians who lie.
Of course, the cavalry never came to Cuccinelli’s rescue. But you tell me, would this ad have helped?