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Cuccinelli Warns Tea Party 'Worn Out or Depressed'

Cuccinelli Warns Tea Party 'Worn Out or Depressed'

By    |   Tuesday, 13 August 2013 10:23 PM

Virginia gubernatorial candidate and conservative standard-bearer Kenneth T. Cuccinelli sounded a clear warning for his fellow Republicans Tuesday, stating in an exclusive Newsmax interview that grass-roots conservatives in the Old Dominion appear to be “pretty close” to just staying home in his battle royal against prominent Democratic fund-raiser Terry McAuliffe.

“In 2009, it was a whole lot more energetic, the whole grass roots, the tea-party effort,” Cuccinelli said. “In some parts of Virginia, the tea party has been not quite staying home, but pretty close to it. They’re just not terribly motivated, or they’re retired or worn out or depressed or something.

“And that’s a problem,” he added. “That’s a problem when principle-based voters won’t come out to volunteer.”

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Despite the apparent lack of grass-roots fervor so far, Cuccinelli said his campaign is “outworking the other side pretty badly on the ground” and “doing much better with our volunteers than they are.”

Virginia’s attorney general added: “I guess I just have such high standards and expectations from the conservative grass roots, and I know we’ve just got to continually do more.”

The reports of lackluster enthusiasm at this early stage in the campaign comes as recent campaign-finance reports indicate McAuliffe, the former head of the DNC and a long-time Democratic rainmaker, has opened up a significant fund-raising advantage over Cuccinelli.

As of June 30, McAuliffe had stuffed $6 million cash on hand into his campaign coffers -- more than double Cuccinelli’s $2.7 million. If that financial disparity continues, Cuccinelli’s campaign would have to rely more on volunteers and enthusiastic grass-roots conservatives in order to offset McAuliffe’s apparent fund-raising advantage.

If it persists, Cuccinelli’s dissatisfaction with grass-roots efforts would sound major alarms for Republicans in the 2014 midterms. Cuccinelli, considered a darling of the conservative movement, led the effort to derail the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and filed law suits to limit the expansion of EPA rule-making.

Conservative fund-raising pioneer Richard Viguerie has called Cuccinelli “as good as it gets” when it comes to conservative-movement candidates. If the tea party and other conservatives fail to fully rally behind Cuccinelli against Democratic insider McAuliffe in purple state Virginia, it would not bode well for any other Republican counting on strong grass-roots support in 2014. Many analysts expect the contest in Virginia to establish the framework for next year’s midterm elections.

Cuccinelli was careful to balance his critique, telling Newsmax that “it would be going too far” to say he’s disappointed with grass-roots efforts. He told Newsmax that his army of door-knocking volunteers had already surpassed some activity levels achieved in Virginia last September, during the closing months of the presidential election cycle. Cuccinelli has established a reputation for being able to win elections even when he is outspent by his opponent.

“We have a good effort on the ground going on,” Cuccinelli said, “but my concern is, it’s really got to be outstanding given what the president did in Virginia last year, and the money advantage my opponent has to make use of that.”

Cuccinelli’s bottom line: “We really need more people coming out -- and by that I don’t just mean on Saturday, I mean every day.” The Virginia attorney general added that he is “fairly confident” that Virginia Republicans will ultimately prevail over the vaunted Democratic get-out-the-vote machine that propelled President Obama’s re-election effort to victory in November.

Cuccinelli said his campaign may actually be raising more money than McAuliffe from within the commonwealth, but said national money from left-leaning donors is pouring into McAuliffe’s campaign.

“The environmentalists are in for him, the abortion-industry folks are in for him, the unions are in for him,” he said. “I’m not aware as yet of any particular conservative interest coming in really behind us. Party interests, yes: The Republican Governors Association has been helpful. But there’s nothing countering that.”

Also Monday, Cuccinelli unveiled a new K-12 education plan to broaden opportunities for all Virginians, called “Putting Our Kids First.” The plan would revise Virginia’s educational testing regime to emphasize critical reasoning skills over rote memorization. It would also empower parents to take their children’s education into their own hands and switch schools if necessary, rather than relegating their children to sub-standard schools, he said.

Noting that nearly a third of children in some disadvantaged regions of Virginia fail its standard learning tests, Cuccinelli said in an op-ed published in a Petersburg, Va., newspaper: “There is a disturbing disparity based on race and wealth that must be addressed if we’re going to give all our students the opportunity to succeed in the classroom and in life.”

Cuccinelli told Newsmax that providing better educational opportunities to students living in the poorer areas of the state “is long overdue.”

“It is not a coincidence that the poorest neighborhoods have the worst schools and have the highest proportion of minority students,” he said. “We’re going to go compete in those neighborhoods. We’re going to go fight for those votes, and we’re going to do it on a substantive basis. This is a no pandering zone here.”

As an example he cited Petersburg, Va., where only 59 percent of school children graduate from high school in four years, compared to 82 percent statewide.

“We want to change that,” he said. “And the only way I believe we’re really going to change that is to give parents control as long as their kids are in failing schools.”

Meg Gruber, the head of the Virginia Education Association group that represents the state’s teaching community, offered sharp criticism of Cuccinelli’s education plan Tuesday. Allowing parents the option of pulling their child out of a failing school, she said, would “divert money from public education.”

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Virginia gubernatorial candidate and conservative standard-bearer Kenneth T. Cuccinelli sounded a clear warning for his fellow Republicans Tuesday, stating in an exclusive Newsmax interview that grass-roots conservatives in the Old Dominion appear to be "pretty close" to...
Tuesday, 13 August 2013 10:23 PM
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