The race to the bottom

Roger Corman

The Cuccinelli campaign is circulating a Sunday Washington Times editorial that scolds Terry McAuliffe for his ever-expanding “war on women” campaign theme.

That’s right, Virginia. At least one of the otherwise rudderless gubernatorial campaigns actually has a theme. The “war on women” isn’t exactly edifying. It’s more like the script of a Roger Corman movie.

But the millions the McAuliffe campaign and its allies have poured into such ads has worked in one very important way.

Ken Cuccinelli’s negatives are sky-high. McAuliffe’s aren’t anything to brag about, but they aren’t as bad as Cuccinelli’s. When unfavorable ratings reach nearly 50 percent (Cuccinelli was at 47 percent in the Hampton University poll), your campaign’s path to victory isn’t just difficult, it’s downright treacherous.

I’m not ready to put a fork in any of the statewide campaigns just yet. But there are a couple of things I’m ready to bet on (for entertainment purposes, only):

1. Overall voter turnout won’t reach 2009’s 40.4 percent. It will struggle to reach 35 percent.

2. And that means fewer votes will be cast this year than were cast for governor in 2001 — and only slightly more than were cast in 1997.

And there’s also one possibility: the eventual winner (or survivor) crosses the line with less than 50 percent of the vote. That hasn’t happened in a Virginia governor’s race in a very, very long time.

This result means Libertarian candidate Robert Sarvis will have to do very well on election day. And if he finishes strong, not only does he hobble the winner (what self-respecting member of the General Assembly will fear a governor who can’t claim a majority of the vote?) Sarvis just might deliver the LP a line on the next ballot. No petitioning required.

Such an outcome assumes a lot. Perhaps too much. But if it happens, then Virginia politics will, at least temporarily, have a third player at the table.