Virginia Republicans Break Ranks, Call for End to Shutdown

Wednesday, 02 Oct 2013 11:23 PM

By Cathy Burke

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Four House Republicans from Virginia have broken ranks to try to end the government shutdown and blunt its expected political fallout on Virginia's tight gubernatorial race, The New York Times reported Wednesday.

U.S. Reps. J. Randy Forbes, Scott Rigell, Frank Wolf and Rob Wittman have called for a government funding bill with no policy strings attached, which, if approved, would end the shutdown.

The Virginia governor's race pitting Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli against Democrat Terry McAuliffe may wind up focusing on which party will take the blame for the shutdown, strategists told The Times.

Swing-state Virginia is being closely watched for an indication of which way congressional midterms will go, too. It's one of only two states to hold statewide elections a year after a presidential vote.

New Jersey is the other, where incumbent Gov. Chris Christie is expected to easily win.

"This will clearly knock out the Republicans in northern Virginia," Tom Davis, a former Republican member of the House from the region, told The Times, referring to the shutdown.

"You’ll have a lot of angry voters looking for some way to express discontent. They don’t get a shot at Congress until next year."

Added John Feehery, a former aide to a previous Republican House speaker, J. Dennis Hastert: "If I were Ken Cuccinelli, I’d be calling my friends in the tea party and saying knock this off."

But Danny Diaz, a senior campaign adviser, said voters know the difference between Washington lawmakers and statewide gubernatorial candidates.

"I think these are voters who are going to understand, OK, this is the federal government, and these are guys running for state office, and I’ve heard from them and I’m going to weigh that," he told The Times.

Cuccinelli himself drew the distinction during a televised debate last week, declaring: "We’ve got to make compromises to get the budget going."

But he's also been an ardent critic of the new law; he filed a lawsuit minutes after the president signed it in March 2010 — drawing support from the tea party as a result, The Times noted.

He'll be a fundraiser on Saturday in Richmond for a family-values group with Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who conducted a marathon speech on the floor of the Senate to argue for defunding Obamacare.

The perception is crucial, as polls show the race tightening.

Independent analysts, however, told The Times the longer the shutdown lasted, the more it would play to McAuliffe’s advantage.

"He’s looking for a motivator to get out the Democratic vote," Larry Sabato, a political scientist at the University of Virginia, told The Times. "When people are mad, they tend to vote."

Though Cuccinelli has weathered damage from Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell's scandal over accepting gifts from a political patron — Cuccinelli took gifts, and then paid them back, from the same donor — the shutdown could upset those gains.

"He is behind and would like to change the narrative," Jack Lechelt, a political scientist at Northern Virginia Community College, told The Times.

"But this massive story is sucking oxygen out of a limited attention arena. It was tough for him to break through before. It’s only getting harder now."

Related Stories:

Obama Tells Republicans to 'Reopen the Government'


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