With a new poll showing a tightening race, Democrat gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe and former President Bill Clinton rallied supporters Wednesday and sharply contrasted what they called the tea party views of Republican rival Ken Cuccinelli and McAuliffe's mainstream policies.
With Election Day six days out, Clinton and McAuliffe appealed to more than 1,000 people in an ornate downtown Charlottesville theater to mobilize activists and get the vote out for McAuliffe on Tuesday.
“For those of you already helping the campaign, I'm asking, I'm pleading with you to dig a little deeper over the next six days,” McAuliffe told the enthusiastic crowd. “No sleep. I always say sleep when you're dead.”
Clinton repeatedly cast Cuccinelli, the state attorney general, as an ideologue. They cited his anti-abortion, minimalist government views and his high-profile legal battle against a climate scientist. Cuccinelli is a climate change skeptic.
McAuliffe said Cuccinelli's clash with climate scientist Michael Mann, who was among the speakers at the rally, sent a “chilling message” to innovators and “embarrassed Virginia across the globe.”
“Here is the bottom line: We cannot grow Virginia's economy by suing scientists,” McAuliffe said.
Clinton revisited the subject during his remarks after McAuliffe. “It's not a good idea to sue people who are just trying to find out what is going on,” he said.
Clinton has spent the past several days with his friend and former fundraiser in hopes of propelling McAuliffe to a win over Cuccinelli. Most polls have showed McAuliffe with a comfortable lead, such as a Washington Post poll Monday that had him with a double-digit-point lead over Cuccinelli.
But a Quinnipiac University poll of likely voters released Wednesday found McAuliffe up by 4 percentage points.
In a statement released from the Cuccinelli campaign, former U.S. Rep. Tom Davis said, “Watch out folks, Cuccinelli is one of the best closers in Virginia and the president has upped the ante by coming in this weekend.” President Barack Obama is scheduled to campaign this weekend for McAuliffe in northern Virginia.
Davis cast Virginia's governor's election as “a big opportunity for folks to send Washington a message on Obamacare.”
Cuccinelli unsuccessfully challenged the nation's new health care law in court, and he's been critical of its flawed rollout.
While neither McAuliffe nor Clinton addressed the polling or took questions from reporters, each stressed the importance to supporters to get out the vote through Tuesday and took aim at Cuccinelli's conservative views to a receptive audience in this city that is home to the University of Virginia.
“We cannot allow Virginia to turn backwards,” said McAuliffe, who failed to win the party's nomination four years ago.
Clinton, who was greeted by hoots and sustained applause, said the Virginia governor's race offers voters an opportunity to vote for a leader who is willing to work across the aisle, in contrast to the rigidly partisan, stop-and-go government in Washington. He said he embraces McAuliffe's reputation as a dealmaker, which has been criticized by opponents.
“After what we just went through with the government shutdown and threats not to pay our debt, send me one,” he said.