Terry McAuliffe Draws on Bill Clinton Magic as Lead Widens at End of Va. Race

Bill Clinton is halfway through a four-day, nine-stop campaign tour in Va.

October 28, 2013, 11:56 AM
PHOTO: Former President Bill Clinton, left, and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe visit the Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg Va., Oct. 28 2013.
Former President Bill Clinton, left, and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe visit the Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg Va., Oct. 28 2013.
Matt Gentry/The Roanoke Times/AP Photo

Oct. 28, 2013— -- In the campaign's waning days, former President Bill Clinton's oversized presence on the trail for Virginia's Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe is about one thing: turning out voters.

"Are you absolutely sure that everybody in this crowd tonight is going to vote?" Clinton asked the crowd in a packed Northern Virginia middle school auditorium tonight. "How sick will you be knowing if something goes wrong that he was ahead in the polls and lost because you didn't show up?"

As Clinton spoke, a new Washington Post-Abt SRBI poll brought word that McAuliffe's lead over Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli had stretched to 12 points ahead of the Nov. 5 election.

The survey indicated that Democrats could potentially deal a significant blow to Republicans statewide in statewide for the first time in a quarter century. Likely voters in the survey favor the Democratic candidate for Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam over the Republican E. W. Jackson. And the Democrats' candidate for attorney general, Mark Herring, is ahead by 3 points -- within the margin of error -- in a tight race against Republican Mark Obenshain.

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Although Clinton came to boost his longtime friend, he spent as much time reminding voters that down-ballot candidates need their support as well.

"This is a big deal, you want Terry to have Senator Herring as attorney general," Clinton warned.

"I don't think you want any other attorney general suing a college professor because of the research they were doing," he added in reference to a 2011 lawsuit brought by Cuccinelli, 45, against University of Virginia climatology professor.

Clinton has received celebrity welcomes from the crowds just about wherever he has gone halfway through his four-day, nine-stop campaign tour for McAuliffe, 56.

Promising to keep it short at the last campaign stop of the day, Clinton managed to speak for nearly a half hour, often reminding the audience why he has been dubbed "explainer-in-chief."

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He waxed detailed on the benefits of early childhood education, lamented the global shortage of jobs for young people and knocked "these tea party people" for sowing division in politics.

"Why are all these tea party people so unhappy?" Clinton said. "Why are they insisting that we major in the minors and fight with each other all the time?"

McAuliffe, he said, believes "in the politics of cooperation not the politics of division."

"When people complain that Terry McAuliffe is a deal-maker, I always say, the Constitution of the United States, if you go back and read it should be subtitled, 'Let's make a deal,'" Clinton said.

Both sides know that in an off-cycle election, turning out their respective bases is the top priority.

Cuccinelli, too, has brought in his own party's rock star and tea party favorite, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., for two events in Virginia today.

Yet the Cuccinelli and Clinton events were a study in contrast.

Speaking at Liberty University with Cuccinelli at one of the day's stops, Paul warned of the threat of eugenics posed by genetic research and abortion.

"In your lifetime, much of your potential -- or lack thereof -- can be known simply by swabbing the inside of your cheek," Paul said, according to the Associated Press. "Are we prepared to select out the imperfect among us?"

At an earlier event in the day with McAuliffe in Blacksburg, Va., Clinton credited federal investment in the mapping of the human genome with making lifesaving scientific advances possible.

"I spent $3 billion of your money when I was president ..." Clinton said, pausing for effect, "to sequence the human genome."

The former president isn't the only Clinton who has come to give McAuliffe a boost in the final days. Hillary Clinton rallied women voters at a campaign event earlier in the month and she has brought in crucial last-minute donations through high-dollar fundraisers on McAuliffe's behalf.

And, as he is known to do, Clinton held court, intertwining punch lines with folk tales and statistics.

"Terry and I went to Red Lobster," began one Clinton tale in Blacksburg earlier today. "I try to follow my new diet but I still like those biscuits."

The political firepower that has come to Virginia in support of McAuliffe is an indication of how important both parties view this race.

Virginia remains a critical battleground in presidential elections and a McAuliffe victory here, as well as other wins in statewide races, would be painted by Democrats as a repudiation of Cuccinelli's tea party-tinged brand of conservatism.

Undeterred, Cuccinelli has pressed on with his opposition to the Affordable Care Act, and his defense of socially conservative views on abortion and gay marriage.

Despite the push to bring his conservative backers into the state, Cuccinelli's poll numbers have stagnated.

Libertarian candidate Robert Sarvis has sapped critical support from Cuccinelli's candidacy. And the Post poll today indicates that voters' negative opinion of Cuccinelli -- 58 percent of likely voters view him unfavorably -- will make closing the gap with McAuliffe difficult as the clock runs down.

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