Cuccinelli-McAuliffe may wind up with just three debates

It’s looking more and more likely that last weekend’s Virginia gubernatorial debate at The Homestead set the table for just two more such gatherings – and will have been the only one seen across the state, albeit via a live stream on the Internet.

Although Democratic candidate Ken Cuccinelli initially proposed as many as 15 debates and Democratic counterpart Terry McAulffe proposed five, the only other two agreed upon aren’t set until late September in Northern Virginia and possibly late September or early October in Southwestern Virginia.

Earlier this week, AARP Virginia and the League of Women Voters urged Cuccinelli to reconsider taking part in what it calls the “People’s Debate” in Richmond, which would be available to local TV stations throughout the state.

“We want to ensure that the People’s Debate will take place, because most voters can’t attend a debate hosted by lawyers at a fancy resort or a debate organized by a business group with a pricey entrance fee,” AARP/VA director Bill Kallio said.

Asked early Thursday morning to clarify why Cuccinelli declined the invitation, his press secretary, Anna Nix, supplied the following statement from chief campaign strategist Chris LaCivita:

"If Terry McAuliffe agrees to a debate with Ken Cuccinelli hosted by Sean Hannity and put on by the NRA and the U.S. Chamber Of Commerce, we’d be happy to attend the one hosted by an MSNBC moderator and those who oppose coal and celebrate Obamacare.”

For his part, Cuccinelli quipped to reporters earlier this month in Hampton Roads that the proposed debate would be a “left-wing, stacked debate.”
In fact, the debate would be moderated by CBS News anchor/reporter Norah O'Donnell, who left NBC and the often-left-leaning MSNBC two years ago. McAuliffe already has accepted the invitation.

Va. Gov. Bob McDonnell debated Democratic candidate Creigh Deeds at the event in 2009, and U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine did likewise last year against George Allen.

As it is, the lone two agreed-upon clashes will be Sept. 25 in McLean hosted by the Fairfax Chamber of Commerce, to be moderated by NBC News chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd, and a late-fall debate at Virginia Tech.