Virginia Governor's race 2013: Candidates make closing pitch to voters
WEYERS CAVE, Va. (AP) - In the closing days of an acrimonious race for governor, Republican Ken Cuccinelli said Sunday he would not surrender his health care fight and portrayed rival Terry McAuliffe, set to campaign with President Barack Obama, as a Washington insider.
Cuccinelli told supporters at the airport in Weyers Cave, northwest of Charlottesville, that a vote for McAuliffe was a vote in support of the Democrats' health care law.
Cuccinelli, who was the first state attorney general to sue to stop the law, said the election was a referendum on the insurance overhaul. He urged his supporters to reject McAuliffe's plan to use the law to provide coverage to 400,000 Virginians.
"No more Obamacare in Virginia. That's the message we can send," Cuccinelli said as he began a day that was set to take him from airport to airport to rally supporters across the state.
Obama was lending his political heft to McAuliffe's campaign at an event in Arlington, just outside Washington, later in the day.
Cuccinelli was trying to use that appearance to energize his backers, many of whom detest the law.
"The other side, God bless them, is helping us out," Cuccinelli said.
McAuliffe and Cuccinelli were spending the final Sunday of their bitter campaign trying to motivate their most ardent supporters.
The race is going to be decided by the few Virginians who choose to vote. The state Board of Elections chief says turnout could be as low as 30 percent of registered voters and the campaigns see 40 percent turnout as the goal.
Polls show McAuliffe ahead and campaign finance reports show a dramatically lopsided dynamic, with the Democrats far outraising and outspending Cuccinelli and his allies. Television airtime was tilted in McAuliffe's favor by a 10-to-1 margin.
More than 114,000 Virginians have already voted early. That compares with the 97,000 who voted early during the last governor's election, won by Republican Bob McDonnell. Virginia does not allow a governor to serve two consecutive terms.
McAuliffe's campaign has worked to increase that number and bank Democratic votes.
Democrats say they are leading among early voters by about an 8,600 vote margin. An additional 7,400 voters have asked for an early ballot and, if they return them, that will add another 900 vote gain, according to Democrats' figures.
Separately, Democrats have more than tripled the number of doors they have knocked over 2009. Democrats said they have knocked on 1.8 million doors so far, including 175,000 on Saturday alone.
Republicans said they are keeping pace and were ahead of where they were in 2012's presidential election.
"I need you to get out there and fight for me," Cuccinelli said at the Weyers Cave airport. "We have got to get out and work as hard as we can."
Cuccinelli has turned to his tea party base in the final weeks. While Cuccinelli's legal challenge to the health law was unsuccessful, the fight has made him somewhat of a hero to conservative voters.
"I was literally the first human being in America to fight this," Cuccinelli reminded his supporters.
McAuliffe wants to use the health care law to expand Medicaid and add 400,000 Virginians to the program. The federal government picks up the tab for the first years and then passes the cost to Virginia in coming years.
McAuliffe says the program keeps Virginia tax dollars at home. Cuccinelli says it will be a drag on the state budget and tie future governors' hands.
"Once you get in, there's no getting out," Cuccinelli said. "It's like Hotel California."
Cuccinelli said it underscored McAuliffe's overall approach to the campaign.
"I think my opponent is running as head lobbyist to lobby for goodies from Washington," he said. "Let's keep Terry McAuliffe's D.C. politics on the other side of the Potomac."
McAuliffe, the former Democratic National Committee chairman, has had help from former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Vice President Joe Biden was to do his part Monday.
Cuccinelli campaigned Saturday with Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida was joining him in the final days.