The obvious question being posed by everyone to everyone after last night’s Gubernatorial Debate between Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Ken Cuccinelli was – “Who do you think won?”
The unobvious answer was and is – it depends on who actually watched, to which parts they paid attention, and will it move them to vote or change their vote.
Trying to be as objective as possible here – Ken Cuccinelli won on every measure of debate performance. He was prepared, specific, countered well, landed more than one body blow, and came across as someone who could be Governor of the Commonwealth. Ken was gubernatorial.
Terry McAuliffe, however, did have a solid debate performance in that he was successful in maintaining the negative narrative about his opponent Ken Cuccinelli. Did he come across as gubernatorial? It’s hard to tell because he was on message. McAuliffe was on the attack trying to keep his lead in the polls. Early and accurate press reports helped the Macker carry that narrative due to his effectiveness.
Yet Cuccinelli was also effective during the debate in his counters, but that doesn’t matter if no one watched this highly entertaining debate. If they read the press accounts – which have all been fair and accurate portrayals – they will get both messages.
What is NOT being reported is the MASSIVE opening Terry McAuliffe gave to Cuccinelli last night on the previously dormant issue of gun control.
What is a gaffe? No. It was worse. It is an opening when it should have been a closing.
When asked what Virginia should do in the wake of the horrific shooting at the Navy Yard, Terry McAuliffe went all in on gun control advocating for an assault weapons ban, magazine limitation, one handgun a month restriction, and universal background checks.
Six weeks away from the election in which the best turnout estimates are 40%, McAuliffe gave Cuccinelli an Alabama offensive line blocking hole on the only hot button issue that blows up the polling crosstabs – guns.
Yes, he won forever the admiration of Piers Morgan, but he very well could have lost the election.
It changed the narrative.
Gun control votes are votes he already had. Even though his base is less enthusiastic than Cuccinelli’s, McAuliffe had these votes. And they were already going to vote.
Having knocked thousands of doors, walked many miles along parade routes, and eaten hundreds of pounds of Rotarian green beans, let me assure you of one unbreakable rule in rural Virginia politics – don’t take away gun rights. Don’t touch it. Don’t even breathe it.
While the narrative laid out by the media is that all NRA, gun rights activists are mouth breathing, tobacco chewing rednecks, the reality in the political world is that many women in this Commonwealth rely on guns for self-defense.
The most ardent gun rights people in my Shenandoah Valley House of Delegates district were women. They would grab my arm during parades looking right at the back of my retina and say with grinding teeth “Don’t take my gun.”
Just as Terry McAuliffe had the gun control votes, Ken Cuccinelli had the gun rights votes.
Now, Cuccinelli could well have their enthusiasm as well as some of the women who were polling in McAuliffe’s direction.
Women were polling in McAuliffe’s direction when the only social narrative was about abortion rights. Last night that might have shifted to gun rights and self-defense.
No, not every woman in the Commonwealth is pro-choice and pro-gun control.
Will it make up for the deficit that Cuccinelli is currently running?
Time will tell.
But so will enthusiasm and the money to get that enthusiasm to the polls.
If the Fairfax Chamber of Commerce endorsement goes to Ken Cuccinelli later today, we’re going to have a barn burner down the stretch.
(Cross-posted at Chris Saxman.com)