Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton held a fundraiser at her D.C. home this week for Mr. McAuliffe, a chief moneyman for President Clinton during the 1990s, while Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida Republican, headlined a fundraiser in Richmond last month for Mr. Cuccinelli, the state’s attorney general.
Mr. Cruz has been leading the charge in trying to force the defunding of President Obama’s health care overhaul before Congress agrees to approve a temporary spending measure. Mr. McAuliffe’s campaign took advantage of the scheduled appearance, launching an ad Thursday trying to link Mr. Cuccinelli to the ongoing federal government shutdown.
Analysts say the strategy is likely to continue for as long as the impasse lasts.
“I think as this shutdown goes on, I think the pressure is going to be more intense on the tea party faction in Congress,” said Quentin Kidd, director of the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University. “Cuccinelli, for a lot of reasons, is tied to that side of the party. I think it’s a delicate dance. On the other hand, he can’t run from it because then it makes it look like his core convictions are dismissible in a tough section of the campaign.”
The shutdown has turned into a pitched battle on Capitol Hill that has largely split along party lines. Mr. McAuliffe and Mr. Cuccinelli have said that both sides, to a certain extent, share in the blame.
Mr. Cuccinelli on Thursday took a firmer stance on the shutdown issue, telling reporters that “both sides are going to have to give some on this, and a shutdown is not a tool that should be used as part of a negotiation over other aspects of government.”
“I certainly would like to see the health care bill scaled back or repealed, but I also think we need to keep functioning as a government,” he said. “Would I handle the federal budget situation the same way [as Cruz] as a senator from Virginia? No, probably not. I would handle it differently.”
The race remains close, with the Democrat holding about a four-point edge in the latest RealClearPolitics polling average.
“I think the McAuliffe people feel pretty comfortable about where they are right now, and the surrogates they do bring in have longstanding connections that they were going to bring in anyway,” Mr. Kidd said. “The surrogates that a campaign brings in are a reflection of what the campaigns think they need.”
Four years ago, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney traveled to Virginia to campaign for Gov. Bob McDonnell before launching their own presidential bids. Mr. Romney also attended a fundraiser in McLean for Mr. Cuccinelli last month.
Though Mr. Obama and the campaign of Democrat R. Creigh Deeds were sometimes at odds in the 2009 race, the president stumped for the state senator once in early August and again in late October. Efforts to reach the White House to see if Mr. Obama plans to visit Virginia before the Nov. 5 election were unsuccessful.
Vice President Joseph R. Biden sang Mr. McAuliffe’s praises when he headlined the Democratic Party of Virginia’s annual Jefferson-Jackson dinner in July — the same role Mr. Obama had at the dinner in 2007 during the early stages of his first presidential campaign.