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Ken Cuccinelli for President?

There are a host of prominent tea party conservatives who are interested in running for President in 2016. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey, former Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, Governor Rick Perry, and libertarian/conservative Senator Rand Paul.  That isn’t the entire list.  There are others who believe that if the timing is right, the party might turn to them.  One of them, to many people’s surprise is our own Attorney General and GOP candidate for Governor Ken Cuccinelli.

While serving as Virginia’s Attorney General he has spent a lot of time nurturing a national conservative base.  His lawsuit to stop the implementation of Obamacare got him his first snippet of national attention.  His investigation of a University of Virginia professor who was doing research on climate change once again pushed him further into the limelight.  It might have brought him jeers from the press, but conservatives, many of them convinced that humankind has nothing to do with global warming, were applauding.  His feisty opposition to abortion, including his ruling regarding the certification of abortion clinics, further anchored his already solid support with this conservative constituency.  While attorney generals often have little to do with tax and spend issues, Cuccinelli didn’t shy away from opposing, over the objections of his party’s senior leadership, the recent tax changes to support new roads.  Once again, many in his own state thought he was out of touch, but tea party conservatives were impressed.

All of this activism has gotten him on the national conservative radar.  He has spoken at national conservative and republican events, and most noteworthy, has even visited Iowa.  Yes, the caucuses aren’t until 2016, and the Attorney General is still running for Governor, and not President, but I guess it pays to plan ahead.  Besides, maybe the Attorney General just likes to visit Iowa.  It’s a nice state.  John Wayne was born there and it was also home to the world’s largest strawberry.  Though, neither, I suspect, is the reason behind the Attorney General’s visits to Iowa.

Ken Cuccinelli has one problem, and that’s winning the Governor’s race here in Virginia. This is a must do if he wants to run for President.  Cuccinelli’s campaign has faltered several times already, but nonetheless, the race is far closer at this point than many expected.  Given the controversy over the gifts Cuccinelli, just like the governor, received from Star Scientific, and given the unseemly involvement of his office in a recent lawsuit by small landowners against a major coal producer (and campaign contributor) his prospects weren’t looking good.  Also, his conservative stands on social issues, and his opposition to the new transportation bill, alienated many supporters in the normally GOP friendly business community.  They just want a pro-business candidate without a lot of baggage.  Still, while lagging behind his Democratic opponent, the margin is small.  For all of his faults, and no matter how much people like me might pile it on, he seems to at least be holding his own.  

One reason is that his opponent just isn’t that well known.  Though a candidate for Governor in the 2009 Democratic Primary, Terry McAuliffe, this year’s Democratic nominee isn’t a familiar name to Virginia voters.  Cuccinelli on the other hand, while controversial, has high name recognition.  Also, McAuliffe, is a bit inexperienced, and carries the burden of being easily labeled a Washington insider.  He is ably trying to move beyond that, but if he wants to clinch this, he needs a stronger and more focused message.

In the meantime, as baggage laden as he is, Ken Cuccinelli remains a viable candidate for governor.  But, don’t think that this is the end of his ambitions.  If he wins the Governor’s mansion, conservatives all over the country will be convinced that a “true believer” can win.  Particularly if he wins in blue leaning Virginia.  It will strengthen their position in the GOP nationally, and give Cuccinelli the hero status amongst the GOP’s most conservative followers, that might well propel him into national politics.   

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