As most polls show Republican Ken Cuccinelli trailing Democratic opponent Terry McAuliffe in the race for governor of Virginia, the conservative hopeful is getting some outside assistance that is both unexpected and hard-hitting.
In a companion piece to a television broadside that began this week in eight media markets throughout the Old Dominion, readers of the Washington Post found a near-full page advertisement in the front section of the newspaper. It featured a photograph of the former Democratic national chairman alongside the identities of his backers from the national left.
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"Who are the 'Gang of Five?'" blares the headline on the ad, sponsored by a group known as the "Fight for Tomorrow
," which identifies the "gang" as "extremist liberal leadership of the Democratic Party," "elitist media," "smear groups financed by anti-American foreigner and mega-rich environmentalists," "Wall Street liberals," and "Hollywood partisans."
The ad fingers McAuliffe as "their stand-in" and warns Virginians, "Don't let them Detroit Virginia with taxes and debts" and, "Don't let them Hollywood Virginia's families and schools."
And, for good measure, the ad admonishes voters, "Don't let them bring District of Columbia tax and spend government to Virginia." The TV version is now blitzing airwaves throughout the state, including in the Washington, D.C.-area market.
Fight for Tomorrow will be operating in other states in 2014.
"Our short-term goal is the election of Ken Cuccinelli over Terry McAuliffe," Fight for Tomorrow spokesman Matt Mackowiak told Newsmax. "But our long-term goal is to play in several states with key U.S. Senate races in '14 and counter the left's money and smear tactics."
Mackowiak, a former Department of Homeland Security official under George W. Bush and press secretary for former Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas said that "smears tactics and big money from the left are the reason McAuliffe, who would be an embarrassing candidate under other circumstances, is leading Cuccinelli.
"Someone had to step in," he said.
A just-completed Public Policy Polling survey among likely voters statewide showed McAuliffe leading Cuccinelli, the state attorney general, by a margin of 44 percent to 37 percent, with 9 percent going to Libertarian Robert Sarvis. The latest Rasmussen Poll
— which did not include Sarvis — had McAuliffe up by 45 percent to 38 percent among likely voters. Emerson College and Quinnipiac University polls at the end of August gave similar results.
Noting that McAuliffe has never held office and is primarily a fund-raiser for Democratic causes and candidates, Mackowiak said that "he would never be in the strong position he is now were it not for the groups on the left who are funding him that we intend to expose — his candidacy would be a joke."
Mackowiak would not identify the major funders of Fight for Tomorrow, saying only "they are concerned conservatives" and noting that super PACs do not have to report their donors to the Federal Election Commission in the timely fashion that other federal political action committees do. They actually report to the Internal Revenue Service and reporting will be after the November election.
Unsaid but very likely to be hit hard by Fight for Tomorrow are the positions of McAuliffe, a Roman Catholic, and his party leadership that are at odds with the positions of his church.
The ad in the Post hinted as much when it noted that "White House aide Valerie Jarrett and the Department of Health and Human Services attack Catholic religious freedom and threaten to shut down hospitals unless Catholics give up their beliefs."
Cuccinelli, also a Catholic, never mentions any contrast between himself and McAuliffe on abortion and other issues related to their common religion.
As to why an "independent" effort to attack McAuliffe is needed, many observers of the race say the official Cuccinelli campaign has so far failed to "play offense" in the contest.
There is a noted precedent for independent efforts that jump-start political campaigns. In 1976, after Ronald Reagan lost the first six contests in the Republican primary season to President Gerald Ford, Sen. Jesse Helms of North Carolina launched an independent effort to back him in the state's primary and, in a major upset, Reagan won his first presidential primary. From there, The Gipper went on to win many contests and came within an eyelash of denying him the nomination.
"I remember it so well," one grizzled veteran of the 1976 Reagan campaign told Newsmax. "And, after seeing the spots Fight for Tomorrow is running, I'd say it looks like a remake" of North Carolina '76.
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
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