LYNCHBURG, Va. (AP) - Tea party hero Rand Paul warned scientific advancements could lead to eugenics during a Monday visit at Liberty University, looking to boost the political fortunes of fellow Republican Ken Cuccinelli's bid for governor.
During a visit to the Christian school founded by Jerry Falwell, Paul looked to energize conservative supporters by warning that genetic tests could identify those who are predisposed to be short, overweight or less intelligent so that they could be eliminated. With one week remaining before Election Day, Cuccinelli is hoping the joint appearance with the U.S. senator from Kentucky will encourage the far-right flank of his party to abandon third-party libertarian spoiler Robert Sarvis.
"In your lifetime, much of your potential - or lack thereof - can be known simply by swabbing the inside of your cheek," Paul said to a packed sporting arena on Liberty's campus. "Are we prepared to select out the imperfect among us?"
Some states ran eugenics programs that sterilized those considered defective in the 1900s, though all were abandoned by the 1970s after scientists discredited the idea.
Campaigning later in the day on Virginia Tech's campus, Democrat Terry McAuliffe renewed criticism of Cuccinelli as a candidate who doesn't believe in science and sought to remind voters that Cuccinelli unsuccessfully sued a University of Virginia researcher under the state's anti-fraud law.
"He doesn't believe in climate science," McAuliffe said. So Cuccinelli, a skeptic of climate change, went on what McAuliffe called a "witch hunt" against Michael Mann, McAuliffe said.
The University of Virginia, a public school, spent $600,000 to defend itself. The state Supreme Court dismissed Cuccinelli's complaint.
"We cannot grow Virginia's economy by suing scientists," McAuliffe added.
Meanwhile, former President Bill Clinton said genetics is helping doctors identify individuals at greater risk for illness and advising them to get tested earlier. Clinton, a McAuliffe pal who is campaigning with him, said the science is saving lives, not costing them.
"We are now learning things that will help us deal with Alzheimer's and various kinds of cancers. We've already identified the genetic markers that are high predictors of breast cancers," said Clinton, who as president announced the first map of the human genome.
Cuccinelli, who trails McAuliffe in polls and money, was fighting to reset the race that has slipped from his grasp. A four-day visit from Clinton - along with the millions of dollars he has helped raise - was set to boost Democrats in the state. With turnout expected to be 40 percent of registered voters or less, the results were likely to be decided by how effective each candidate could be at turning out strong partisans.
Cuccinelli has turned to conservative base issues such as abortion rights, coal and guns to make sure his allies show up for Nov. 5's election. He has also turned to tea party leaders, such as Paul, to convince Republicans to cast their ballot for him and not for Sarvis.
Sarvis, a former GOP candidate, has the backing of 11 percent of Republicans, according to a Quinnipiac University poll last week. While those voters alone aren't enough to put Cuccinelli in the lead, they signal a discomfort among some Republicans about Cuccinelli's deep conservative beliefs.
Cuccinelli, the current attorney general, said he would not shy from social issues.
"I've been attacked rather vigorously for being a proud pro-life candidate for governor," Cuccinelli told students at Liberty University. "You don't get any other rights to defend if you're not born."
Brian Coy, a spokesman for the Democratic Part of Virginia, said Cuccinelli is only trying to appeal to "his tea party base" during the campaign's final week.
"Ken Cuccinelli has given up on the mainstream," Coy said.