It's tempting to call what's going on in the Virginia gubernatorial race entertainment, mirroring the dysfunction across the Potomac River in the nation's capital. It is, unfortunately, real. The outcome will shape the political landscape for years to come, impacting not only the 2014 elections — given the morale and policy boost — but more importantly, the critical 2016 presidential race.
Will the other half of the Clinton power partnership — Hillary Rodham Clinton — sit in the White House, thanks to her buddy Terry McAuliffe working from his perch in the Richmond governor's mansion, when she seeks the presidency?
Or will a Republican with the seriousness of purpose of a Gov. Ken Cuccinelli, radiating out over the Virginia Commonwealth, occupy the White House come Jan. 20, 2017, thanks to rising Republican leadership?
Make no mistake: Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is by far the better candidate for governor than Mr. McAuliffe.
How, though, to get past the lies?
There's that famous line uttered by Gary Cooper's character in "The Virginian" (1929), the first Western "talkie," based on the novel by Owen Wister: "If you wanna call me that — smile."
Mr. Cuccinelli could say the same to Mr. McAuliffe, who is attempting to distract from his nonexistent governing record by lobbing untruths about the attorney general.
Mrs. Clinton, ending her five-year political hiatus, endorsed Mr. McAuliffe at a rally on Oct. 19, in Falls Church, Va. "I believe Terry has what it takes to lead Virginia forward in this rapidly changing world," she roared.
The Northern Virginia Technology Council PAC (Tech PAC), which endorsed Mr. Cuccinelli last month, begs to differ.
When Tech PAC met with Mr. McAuliffe, he was "uninformed, superficial, flamboyant, no details, all [expletive deleted]," The Washington Post reported. On the other hand, the council found Mr. Cuccinelli "precise, serious and detail-oriented."
The Tech PAC endorsement of Mr. Cuccinelli undermines the credentials that Mr. McAuliffe's campaign touts as the basis for his bid for the governorship — that he is a lifelong pro-business entrepreneur whose administration will be all about jobs.
The reaction of Team McAuliffe — warning that the state's "doors will be closed" to Tech PAC if the organization sticks with its endorsement — also underscores how Mr. McAuliffe's business success has largely been achieved through his high-powered political connections, most prominently, to the Clintons.
The Virginia state motto, "Sic semper tyrannis" ("Thus always to tyrants"), would need to be replaced by "Quid pro quo" ("this for that") in a McAuliffe administration, Mr. Cuccinelli said at a Fairfax Chamber of Commerce debate.
If Mr. McAuliffe is elected governor, it's a good bet Virginia will kiss goodbye Forbes' recent ranking of the state as the best for business. For one thing, Mr. McAuliffe would rubber-stamp "Barack Obama's 'war on coal,'" that would "kill Virginia coal, Virginia jobs."
In her endorsement, Mrs. Clinton also trumpeted Mr. McAuliffe's 21 years living in Virginia, i.e., since the Clintons arrived on the Washington political stage.
Here's the truth, according to The Washington Post: "McAuliffe has been viewed as a Virginia outsider and Washington insider." The real Virginian is Mr. Cuccinelli, who, unlike Syracuse, N.Y., native Mr. McAuliffe, grew up in the Old Dominion and attended school there, including the University of Virginia.
Mr. McAuliffe is also a Hollywood insider. His contributions from ZIP code 90210 ranking fourth-highest. Mrs. Clinton is headlining a Beverly Hills fundraising luncheon for him on Oct. 30, hosted by media mogul Haim Saban and his wife Cheryl, costing $15,000 per person, and $25,000 per couple.
He's using all that non-Virginia Hollywood money to tar Mr. Cuccinelli as anti-woman, using camera techniques Hollywood pioneered and knows best. However, if you visited the attorney general's home, you'd encounter, besides his wife, five daughters running around the house, along with his two young sons — all of whom he wants to succeed beyond their wildest imaginings.
The most pro-woman (and pro-man) policies are those that create jobs. In this regard, actions speak louder than words, and the Tech PAC endorsement of Mr. Cuccinelli speaks volumes. So this real-life drama continues.
In "The Virginian," the good-natured cowboy played by Cooper listens to his conscience when he discovers his best friend is cattle-rustling. Hopefully, Virginians will choose as their next governor the candidate who, likewise, consults his conscience before listening to his well-connected friends: the very quality that defines Mr. Cuccinelli.
Mary Claire Kendall writes a regular column on "Old Hollywood and Beyond" for Forbes.