Career crony turned perennial candidate Terry McAuliffe's staked his entire bid for the Virginia Governor's Mansion on demagoguing Ken Cuccinelli's stances on social issues.
A recent Washington Times editorial summed up the central strategy of the Democrat's all-too predictable campaign: retread Obama's scorched earth tactics to cast Cuccinelli as anti-woman, all to cover up his glaring lack of substance.
Independent fact checkers have repeatedly debunked mudslinging by the McAuliffe camp, including a recent ad accusing Cuccinelli of trying to ban forms of contraception. The ad opens with an image of a package of birth control pills, as a voiceover says, "These are birth control pills. More than half of American women use them at some point in their lives. But Ken Cuccinelli sponsored a bill that could have made common forms of birth control illegal, including the pill."
This claim was countered by The Washington Post's fact checker, which read, "Republican Ken Cuccinelli did not back a bill or bills that would have explicitly banned some forms of contraceptive."
Conservative columnist Mona Charen further exposed McAuliffe's misleading rhetoric, writing, "This is preposterous. The purpose of personhood laws was to protect unborn babies from abortion and to ensure that babies "accidentally" born alive following an unsuccessful abortion would be treated as human beings with full rights. They are not remotely aimed at contraception."
Another ad attacking Cuccinelli features a Norfolk gynecologist claiming the Republican nominee "wants to make all abortion illegal, even in cases of rape and incest, even to protect a woman's health."
Politifact ruled the ad "Mostly False," noting that, "It's not easy to overstate Cuccinelli's objections to abortion, but McAuliffe's ad manages to do just that."
While Terry McAuliffe playing fast and loose with the truth is hardly breaking news, it is truly remarkable that he fibs even in instances like this one where the facts probably would have sufficed for his purposes.
For a man seriously asking Commonwealth voters to elect him their next chief executive, this is hardly the mark of a serious candidate. One of the Commonwealth's major papers, the Richmond Times-Dispatch, agrees, writing in a September editorial, "[McAuliffe's] troubling lack of mastery and odd flippancy combine to paint a portrait of a deeply unserious candidate."
What's worse is McAuliffe's aversion to taking a position himself on the very issues on which he attacks Cuccinelli. A reporter from The Weekly Standard asked McAuliffe on camera about his support for taxpayer-funded late-term abortions.
"It's a beautiful day out, huh?" was Terry's response.
That's the newly rebooted Candidate Terry talking; the Democrat Attack Dog Terry of old was loud and clear about social issues, freely articulating positions so extreme that he was uninvited from addressing his Catholic Alma mater.
How extreme, exactly? According to Susan B. Anthony President Marjorie Dannenfelser, "Terry McAuliffe supports a platform of abortion on-demand at any time, for any reason, paid for by Virginia taxpayers. That means he supports a platform of sex-selective abortion, late-term abortion, partial-birth abortion, and abortions on teenage girls without parental consent – all paid for by Virginia taxpayers. In sync with the extreme abortion lobby, he is utterly out of step with Virginia taxpayers."
Rather than disavow his former extremism, a McAuliffe campaign spokesperson declined to affirm or deny the candidates' position on late-term abortion.
To give credit where it is due, McAuliffe made one policy proposal based on recently passed state legislation requiring stricter regulation of abortion clinics. From the Richmond Times-Dispatch:
McAuliffe recently said he would "issue what's called a guidance opinion by mid-March. I can give a guidance opinion to the Board of Health to grandfather in those remaining clinics to keep them open. That's why this election is so important, and I will do that."
Actually, he can't. For one thing, the board already voted to apply the new rules to existing clinics. It did so to carry out a new state law, passed by the General Assembly and signed by the governor. Even if the governor could issue a "guidance opinion," it's not clear by what procedural mechanism the board could effect a unilateral reversal to carry it out.
But the governor cannot issue a "guidance opinion," a creature that apparently exists only in McAuliffe's vivid imagination.
Per usual, don't confuse Terry or his supporters with the facts. After all, Planned Parenthood has shelled out a cool million in anti-Cuccinelli ads, and independent expenditure reports show NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia has topped six figures in helping him wage the most negative campaign in recent memory.
Keeping that outside cash flowing is obviously more important than openness about your positions or getting the facts right if you're Terry McAuliffe, who's spent a career putting political gamesmanship ahead of leadership.
As a candidate named Barack Obama said in 2008, "If you don't have a record to run on, then you paint your opponent as someone people should run from."