HARRISONBURG, Va. —
Terry McAuliffe and former President Bill Clinton on Tuesday criticized rival Ken Cuccinelli for not backing the renewal of the Violence Against Women Act, returning to a message designed to damage the Republican’s sinking support among women. Cuccinelli, meanwhile, tried to keep the campaign focused on his opposition to the national health care law.
With one week before Election Day, both gubernatorial hopefuls sought to energize their most strident supporters in an election that is likely to be decided by the strongest partisans. Television advertising has been lopsided in McAuliffe’s favor and turnout is expected to be less than 40 percent.
McAuliffe, the Democratic nominee, has been relentless in criticizing Cuccinelli’s record on women’s issues, such as domestic violence and abortion rights. The result has been polling that shows McAuliffe leading Cuccinelli 51 percent to 39 percent, according to a Washington Post poll released Monday. Among women, McAuliffe leads 58 percent to 34 percent.
Looking to keep women solidly in the fold, McAuliffe criticized Cuccinelli for refusing to sign a bipartisan letter from 47 states’ attorneys general urging Congress to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act.
“It’s just one more issue where he is way outside the mainstream,” McAuliffe said.
Cuccinelli said he does not sign such letters endorsing legislation because the bills can be amended after he endorses them.
Clinton, joining his longtime pal and former Democratic National Committee chairman, said that reasoning doesn’t pass the smell test.
“I’m very proud of that bill, and I am appalled that anybody would oppose both extending it and expanding its reach,” said Clinton, who signed the first iteration of the law.
Cuccinelli’s campaign said the criticism over the Violence Against Women Act was off base. As a student at the University of Virginia, Cuccinelli formed a student group to prevent sexual assault and agitated for the school to hire a full-time sexual assault education coordinator.
Cuccinelli urged his supporters — especially women — to help spread is message, especially his opposition to Democrats’ national health care law.
“It is women that make three quarters of the health care decisions in this country,” Cuccinelli told reporters after a rally with Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. “They don’t like it when they’re threatened with the federal government taking their doctor away, taking their health insurance away, taking their choices away and dictating how those decisions are going to get made.”
Cuccinelli has seen his standing fall during the final weeks before the Nov. 5 election. The partial government shutdown hurt him in a state rich with federal workers and contractors. Cuccinelli also has reaffirmed his conservative principles and has all but stopped his effort to win over moderate voters.
“This is a referendum on Obamacare,” Cuccinelli told supporters at one of his campaign offices. “Why would we double down on failure?”
Cuccinelli has scaled back his television advertising, given his meager cash and completely stopped advertising in the voter-rich — but moderate-to-liberal — Washington suburbs. Instead, he has worked to energize his conservative base for an election that is likely to be decided by strong partisans who show up in off-year elections.
“Terry McAuliffe, I think he’s disqualified himself because he’s taken such extremely liberal positions,” said Jindal, who is weighing a presidential bid in 2016 and is a popular figure among Republicans.
McAuliffe, who on Monday said he has $1.6 million in the bank, was also set to get a boost from the White House. President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden were set to campaign for McAuliffe before Election Day. First lady Michelle Obama also recorded an ad for McAuliffe.
Jindal tried to make that help a political liability: “This is the most liberal and incompetent administration in our history.”