Virginia Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli, bolstered by a new poll that shows him gaining fast on Democratic rival Terry McAuliffe in the Virginia governor’s race, welcomed reports that President Obama will campaign against him this weekend, saying it will help turn the election into “a referendum on Obamacare.”
In a Friday conference call with the media, Cuccinelli called the president’s Sunday visit to campaign for McAuliffe “a huge plus for us.”
A new Emerson College poll showed Cuccinelli trailing McAuliffe by just 2 points at 42 to 40 percent, well within the margin of error. Libertarian Robert Sarvis tallied 13 percent.
The RealClearPolitics average of polls shows McAuliffe leading by 7.7 points, with just days remaining before Tuesday’s election.
The Emerson poll comes amid rising voter angst over the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. A recent Fox News poll indicated that 6 in 10 voters describe the health-care rollout as “a joke.”
CareFirst Blue Cross Blue Shield announced this week it has sent notices to over 70,000 customers in the Virginia, Maryland, D.C. region, advising them that their policies no longer comply with the standards of coverage established by Obama’s signature legislation. That may be just a hint of what’s to follow: Other states have reported hundreds of thousands of policy cancellations.
Said Cuccinelli: “Does anyone believe Terry McAuliffe wants to address why Virginians were lied to, and losing access to their insurance and their doctors? I’m scared about what Obamacare is doing to Virginians. Terry McAuliffe is scared about what Obamacare is doing to Terry McAuliffe.”
Whether Cuccinelli, a darling of movement conservatives, can ride what appears to be a growing wave of voter antipathy over Obamacare to victory is an open question. But his focus on Obamacare was manifest during the Friday conference call.
“He certainly doesn’t want to answer any questions about Obamacare, which he supported, and he didn’t even think it went far enough,” Cuccinelli said of McAuliffe, a long-time Democrat who is a close ally of the Clintons and former chairman of the Democratic National Committee. “And it’s falling apart before our very eyes. Let’s be clear, it’s a complete disaster.”
Cuccinelli noted that “the law’s namesake, the president, is coming to Virginia. And that is a huge plus for us.”
McAuliffe also held a news conference with the media Friday, making a strong pledge to work with Republicans on a bipartisan basis if he wins the election. “The best solutions happen when we put aside partisanship,” McAuliffe said.
Analysts expect voter participation in the off-off-year election could be as low as 30 percent, which makes the candidates’ get-out-the-vote operations critically important. McAuliffe’s bipartisan push could be an effort to woo enough independents and moderates, analysts said, in order to put him over the top even if his supporters don’t show up at the polls in large numbers.
Cuccinelli certainly doesn’t sound like a candidate trailing in all the polls who is being heavily outspent in the campaign’s closing days.
“Our people are energized, we’re exceeding all our grass-roots goals right now, and we’re working day and night,” he said. “We’re positioning ourselves to shock the political world on Tuesday with a big win. And I believe we have a real opportunity to win, despite being grossly outspent by Terry McAuliffe’s campaign.”
Cuccinelli characterized the Sunday campaign event that the president is headlining as “a rally that is a celebration of Obamacare.”
He added: “This election, especially with the president coming Sunday, has turned into at least at part a referendum on Obamacare. It’s a very clear line between me, the first person in the country who fought it, and Terry McAuliffe who didn’t think it went far enough, and who in fact wants to expand it even further with the Medicare expansion.”
Cuccinelli, in what may represent Republicans’ major line of attack as the campaign enters its final phase, was especially critical of the Obamacare-related proposal to add up to 400,000 recipients to Virginia’s Medicaid rolls.
The Affordable Care Act offers a 100 percent funding match to offset costs incurred by states that add new recipients to their Medicaid rolls. But conservatives warn that inducement will inevitably change, leaving states strapped with much higher costs.
Cuccinelli opposes the Medicaid expansion, and also opposes establishing a state exchange in the Old Dominion to offer subsidized policies online.
He says Rep. Paul Ryan warned in a recent visit to Virginia that even a 90 percent federal match of state Medicaid spending would be unsustainable. He also described the federal governments costs projections as “laughable,” Cuccinelli said.
During the conference call Cuccinelli said the new exchanges and the Medicaid expansion could create a “hole in your [state] budget” of between $1 and $1.5 billion. That revenue loss, he said, would more than offset the entire revenues collected by the state’s recent tax increase devoted to improving transportation infrastructure in the rapidly growing state.
“That’s the scale of the potential destruction to our state budget,” said Cuccinelli. “And once you get in, you’re stuck in. No state has ever gotten out of an entitlement once they’ve gotten in.
“As a matter of responsible budgeting, I don’t think it makes sense to get into this program the way it’s structured with the current administration.”
Of McAuliffe he added: “He’s dead wrong in thinking that Obamacare didn’t go far enough, he’s dead wrong in thinking Obamacare is a good idea, and he’s dead wrong in thinking that we ought to double down, and expand this failure, with the Medicaid expansion. And the people of Virginia are responding to that.”
Libertarian Robert Sarvis is also running in the race. Most polls show him getting a little better than 10 percent of the vote, although analysts suspect his supporters will vote for a candidate given a more realistic chance of winning the race once they step into the ballot box – a trend seen in previous Virginia elections.
Most of the polls show McAuliffe with a lead of about 7 points over Cuccinelli heading into the last weekend before the election. There are growing indications the gap is narrowing fast however. Earlier this week a Quinnipiac poll showed McAuliffe leading the race by 45 percent to 41 percent, a 4 percent margin. Sarvis enjoyed the support of 9 percent of the voters participating in that poll.
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