How the Only Winning GOP Candidate in Virginia Is Pulling It Off

The Beltway press has decided that House Republicans are bollixing up Ken Cuccinelli’s campaign for governor of Virginia. I think that’s true: It’s proved difficult for Cuccinelli, who happily defined himself as a conservative when that brand was strong, to now back away from the government shutdown that he technically has nothing to do with. It’s doubly difficult for E.W. Jackson, the lieutenant governor nominee who was nominated on the strength of a good convention speech—though Jackson’s not even trying to soft-pedal his credentials, speaking tomorrow night at the Values Voter Summit of social conservatives in Washington.

No, talk to Virginia Democrats now and they will tell you they’re truly worried only about Mark Obenshain, the GOP candidate for attorney general, an office Republicans have held in the state since 1994.* The Quinnipiac poll that shows Cuccinelli sinking further behind Terry McAuliffe shows Obenshain increasing his favorable rating from 12 percent to 18 percent. (Only 9 percent of voters view him negatively. It’s numbers like these that remind you of how little attention actual voters pay to this stuff. Oh, no—how many of them even know what a “continuing resolution” is?) Mark Herring, the Democrat, has a mere 8 percent favorable rating, largely because most voters don’t know who he is. How is Obenshain doing this? Not by telling voters which party he’s in.

A viewer of that ad learns that Obenshain has “bipartisan support” and hates sex predators. As a former Virginia voter, I feel like I’ve been seeing GOP candidates for AG or governor lead with their anti-sex predator cred for a decade.

The point: In Virginia, facing an electorate likely to be whiter and older than the 2012 Obama electorate, the Republican with the best shot at winning is not leading with the fact that he and John Boehner share a party.

*Correction, Oct. 14, 2013: This post incorrectly stated that Republicans have held the Virginia attorney general’s office since 1997.