Memo: Cuccinelli-Akin-Mourdock Politics on the Ballot in 2013
On November 6th, 2012 voters in Virginia and across the country chose results-oriented Democrats like President Obama and Tim Kaine to serve them in Washington. One of the key takeaways of last year's elections was Americans' widespread rejection the divisive agenda of politicians like Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock, who made national headlines and alienated voters in their states and across the country. The high profile losses of hyper-partisan Tea Party candidates are instructive as Virginia Republicans prepare to nominate Ken Cuccinelli for Governor in 2013. While Cuccinelli was not on the 2012 ballot, his extreme and divisive ideology was and it lost by wide margins in Republican states.
Their stories are similar: Akin, Mourdock and Cuccinelli all gained prominence because they feel that most elected Republicans are too moderate, especially on issues like women's health. They all took power by activating a vocal minority within the Republican Party.
And they have succeeded in driving more reasonable leaders and mainstream voters away from the GOP.
In Indiana and Missouri, Cuccinelli's allies each lost large polling leads after their voters came face to face with their radical agenda. They each lost moderates by over 30 points, independents by over 10 points, and women by double digits. Those results were a direct outcome of their desire to use government to impose a radical and divisive social agenda. But for Cuccinelli, the election results are evidence that his party is actually too moderate.
Cuccinelli's worldview is far from Virginia's reality. This year, 45% of Virginia's diverse electorate identified as moderate, far surpassing both liberals and conservatives. The vast majority expressed mainstream views on issues like the economy and women's health. Few would align themselves with Cuccinelli's identity as an extreme ideological firebrand pursuing a divisive agenda.
The more mainstream Republican Party of the past may have isolated these fringe extremists. Now, those extremists control the Republican Party and the people being isolated are the mainstream Republicans. Here in Virginia, the Cuccinelli wing of the Republican party has seized control over party infrastructure from more mainstream supporters of Governor Bob McDonnell and cleared the path for Cuccinelli's nomination.
That coups sets up yet another choice for voters between a results-oriented Democratic agenda and a radical, hyper-conservative partisan whose approach to government has more to do with advancing his personal ideology than making people's lives better.
In Indiana, Richard Mourdock lost most key voting groups. Mourdock lost moderates by 33-points, women by 12-points and independents by 11-points. [CNN Exit Poll]
In Missouri, Todd Akin lost most key voting groups. Akin lost moderates by 42-points, women by 22-points, and independents by 12-points. [CNN Exit Poll]
In Virginia, 45% of 2012 voters identified as moderate, substantially more than either conservatives or liberals. [CNN Exit Poll]
Cuccinelli "the most overtly partisan attorney general in Virginia's history." According to the Washington Post, "KEN CUCCINELLI II, the most overtly partisan attorney general in Virginia's history, has waged war on Obamacare, harassed climate-change scientists, sanctioned discrimination against homosexuals and embraced Arizona's (now mostly gutted) immigration law. He has clung to his post after declaring his candidacy for governor, thereby parting ways with past attorneys general, Republicans and Democrats alike, who resigned to run rather than entangle the office in politics." [Washington Post, 7/27/12]
Cucinelli Criticized Romney for Being Too Moderate; Aligned Himself With Santorum. According to the Washington Times, "Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, who has led the state's fight against President Obama's health care law, warned Thursday that Republicans would be "effectively giving up the issue" if they tap Mitt Romney as their presidential nominee. The claim echoes the message of Rick Santorum, Mr. Romney's chief opponent for the party's nod, who has said the health care law the former Massachusetts governor signed is too close to Democrats' national law to leave Mr. Romney any room to criticize it." [Washington Times, 3/15/12]
Cuccinelli Supporters Forced Virginia GOP to Change Governor Selection to Convention, Hoping to Reduce Moderate Republican Influence. Supporters of Ken Cuccinelli forced the state Republican Party to eliminate a primary for Governor and instead hold a convention where the most conservative Republicans decide. According to CBS 6 Analyst Bob Holsworth, "Most people believe that if the GOP switches to a convention, this would give an added advantage to Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.He has fervent supporters among the Tea Party and social conservatives, and the thought is that [voting bloc] might be more likely to get on a bus from all over the state and come to Richmond on a Saturday morning." [WTVR, 5/29/12; Washington Post, 5/24/12]
Cuccinelli Used His Office as "blatantly partisan bully pulpit." According to the Washington Post, "IN THREE YEARS as Virginia's attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli II (R) has demeaned his office by using it as a blatantly partisan bully pulpit to attack Obamacare, illegal immigrants, homosexuals and climate-change scientists. Now he has managed to bully Virginia's Board of Health into a stance - unprecedented in state history - that could force most of the commonwealth's 20 or so abortion clinics to close. Mr. Cuccinelli, who was a champion of the anti-abortion movement as a legislator, has clung to his current office even as he runs for governor. In doing so, he ignores the example of former Virginia attorneys general of both parties who resigned to run rather than politicize the office. In the Cuccinelli worldview, rendering dispassionate legal advice takes a back seat to agenda-pushing." [Washington Post, 9/20/12]
Cuccinelli Running Against "Mainstream." According to Washington Post guest columnist Peter Galuszka, "Cuccinelli, who has gained national attention for his strong positions against climate change, homosexuals and abortion, had been riding the Tea Party wave of distrust and resentment of government and mainstream politicians." [Washington Post, 11/7/12]
The New Republic: Akin, Mourdock Represent "Increasingly Common" Position of Republicans on Choice. According to the New Republic's Amy Sullivan, "Let's get one thing straight. GOP Senate candidates Richard Mourdock and Todd Akin did not lose their races on Tuesday because they are extreme right-wingers whose opposition to abortion, even in the case of women who become pregnant as a result of being raped, is considered beyond the pale. Nor did they lose because of verbal gaffes about rape-although Akin's creative understanding of the female reproductive system should have been enough to disqualify him for a seat in the U.S. Senate, or in freshman biology. No, Mourdock and Akin lost because they each made the mistake of actually trying to explain an increasingly common position by Republican officer-holders, including Paul Ryan." [New Republic, 11/7/12]