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MEMO: McAuliffe On Defense At Critical Juncture In Race

- September 18, 2013

FROM: RNC Communications Director Sean Spicer (@seanspicer)
TO: Interested Parties
RE: McAuliffe On Defense At Critical Juncture In Race


This week, Virginians are seeing more evidence why Ken Cuccinelli will win this fall in the Commonwealth’s gubernatorial contest. On Monday, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli secured the coveted endorsement of the Northern Virginia Technology Council’s (NVTC) political action committee, an influential bipartisan group which represents more than 1,000 businesses in Northern Virginia. While board members described Ken Cuccinelli as “a serious, detail-oriented candidate,” Terry McAuliffe came across as “uninformed and superficial” and later tried to bully the NVTC into pulling Cuccinelli’s endorsement. The damaging details about McAuliffe’s conduct and performance with the board are a major blow to his campaign, putting him firmly on the defensive against a surging Cuccinelli in the final six weeks of the race.

McAuliffe’s Inexperience Again Rears Its Head

Experience matters to voters. According to a Quinnipiac poll released today, 60 percent of likely Virginia voters view a candidate’s experience as either “extremely” or “very” important to them. But reports about McAuliffe’s disastrous interview with the NVTC board reinforced the perception that he is too inexperienced to effectively govern, a problem that has dogged him since his failed 2009 campaign for governor. As The Washington Post reported:
 

McAuliffe, meanwhile, failed to impress in his interview and even shocked some members, several board members said. When someone asked how he planned to work with people to get things done in Richmond, McAuliffe replied that he would wine and dine them.

“I’m an Irish Catholic. I like to drink.  It is what it is. We’ll go have lunch. We’ll go have drinks. We’ll work the phones. We’ll do whatever it takes to get things done," he said...

“Terry said, ‘I am not going to read every bill when I’m governor. I’m going to hire people to read them for me.’ It was an astonishing statement,” a board member said, quoting McAuliffe from memory.


These revelations about McAuliffe’s unserious approach to governing are especially damaging given that voters already feel Cuccinelli has better experience for the job by an 11 point margin. McAuliffe, who earlier this year was lampooned for not being able to name a single cabinet position, has cemented the view that he is simply too inexperienced to run the state government effectively and has opened the door for Cuccinelli to make this contrast even starker.

“He Didn’t Give Any Details … It Was All [Expletive].”

McAuliffe also hurt himself by eschewing specifics, as he has done throughout the campaign. As today’s Quinnipiac poll showed, Virginia voters increasingly view Cuccinelli as spending more time explaining what he’d do as governor than McAuliffe, who they view increasingly as spending more time leveling political attacks. This contrast, too, was on display when NVTC board members told The Washington Post that while Cuccinelli had “detailed responses to questions,” McAuliffe was “uninformed and superficial”:
 

Cuccinelli impressed the board’s majority as a serious, detail-oriented candidate while McAuliffe seemed to wing it, according to three board members present for the interviews who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak frankly.

“Terry was his normal, flamboyant self,” said a board member present for both interviews. “He didn’t want to get pinned down to any details. He didn’t give any details. He was all about jobs, jobs, jobs — ‘I’m just going to take care of the situation when the time comes. I’m just going to do it.’ It was all [expletive]” …

On a question about whether Virginia should stay in something called the “open-trade-secrets pact,” Cuccinelli gave a thoroughly researched response, the person said.

But McAuliffe answered, according to the source: “ ‘I don’t know what that is. I’ll have to look it up later.’ And then he turns back to the guy [who asked] and said ‘Well, what do you think we should do?’ And the guy says, ‘We want Virginia to stay in it.’ And then Terry says, ‘Okay, we will.’ ”


McAuliffe’s demonstrated lack of knowledge about key issues facing the Commonwealth’s business community further undermines the central premise of his campaign. With Cuccinelli the only candidate in the race delivering substance, McAuliffe is left not only without a key endorsement, but also unable to make the positive case for his candidacy in the critical closing weeks of the campaign.

“About As Pro-Business As A Protection Racket”

McAuliffe’s behind the scenes attempt to strong arm the NVTC board into stripping Cuccinelli of his endorsement was an affront to the “Virginia Way.” Through his proxies, McAuliffe even threatened to block the NVTC’s legislative agenda in the General Assembly. “If you threaten to torpedo the interests of business when some businesses don’t do your bidding, then you’re about as pro-business as a protection racket,” wrote Richmond Times-Dispatch editorial board member A. Barton Hinkle. This shameful spectacle paints an ugly picture for voters and business people alike. What business looking to relocate to Virginia would find Terry’s bullying appealing?

“McAuliffe Stumbles Badly.”

The fallout from losing the NVTC endorsement has destroyed McAuliffe’s election year reinvention as a bipartisan, business savvy consensus builder. In reality the new Terry McAuliffe is the same as the old Terry McAuliffe, who a majority of Virginia Democrats rejected the last time he sought the governorship. The events over this past weekend reveal a candidate out his depth on the issues, willing to bully his way into office, and wholly unprepared to lead if he were to ever get there. Adding insult to injury is that McAuliffe’s charade is unraveling right as a majority of voters are beginning to pay attention to the race.

Virginia gubernatorial contests are traditionally late breaking affairs, and after losing such a key
endorsement and losing it in the way that he did, McAuliffe finds himself on defense at a critical moment in the race. With all the other factors hampering his candidacy – multiple federal investigations involving his company GreenTech, the softness of his support, the high likelihood of low election day turnout – and Cuccinelli surging today’s Quinnipiac poll, these were a series blows McAuliffe could not afford to take.

“McAuliffe stumbles badly,” read a tweet from Virginia political sage Larry Sabato. Indeed he has and at the worst possible time.


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