- The Washington Times - Monday, October 28, 2013

National Republicans are pouring money into the campaign of Republican attorney general candidate Mark D. Obenshain, attempting to salvage at least one of the top three statewide offices they swept four years ago in Virginia.

The contributions come as fundraising numbers released Monday show Democrat Terry McAuliffe maintaining a hefty edge in cash while polls give him a double-digit lead over Republican Attorney General Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II in the only competitive governor’s race in the country this year.

Mr. McAuliffe raised more than $8 million between Oct. 1 and Oct. 23, entering the final stretch of the campaign with $1.6 million cash on hand and bringing the total amount he’s raised during the campaign to more than $34 million — far and away the most of any statewide candidate in history.

Mr. Cuccinelli, meanwhile, raised $2.9 million, leaving him with about $600,000 on hand.

Both campaigns are planning robust get-out-the-vote efforts to make sure supporters get to the polls on Nov. 5, with Mr. Cuccinelli in particular noting that he’s been a strong closer in his multiple electoral wins.

The Republican Governors Association gave Mr. Cuccinelli $970,000 during the most recent reporting period. But with Democrats having opened leads in polls surveying the races for Virginia governor and lieutenant governor, some in the GOP are casting their gaze farther down the ballot, where Mr. Obenshain is in a tight race against Democratic state Sen. Mark Herring of Loudoun.

A Washington Post-Abt SRBI poll of likely voters released Monday gave Mr. Herring a 3-point lead over Mr. Obenshain, 49 percent to 46 percent — within the survey’s margin of error.

At the top of the ticket, Mr. McAuliffe leads Mr. Cuccinelli, 51 percent to 39 percent, according to the poll. Libertarian candidate Robert Sarvis was the choice of 8 percent of respondents. The poll also shows state Sen. Ralph S. Northam, Norfolk Democrat, with a 13-point lead — 52 percent to 39 percent — over Republican E.W. Jackson in the lieutenant governor’s race.

Quentin Kidd, the director of Christopher Newport University’s Wason Center for Public Policy, said he has seen money shifting away from the “Cuccinelli side to the Obenshain side” for weeks now.

Mr. Obenshain, a state senator from Harrisonburg, raised nearly as much money as Mr. Cuccinelli during the recently concluded reporting period. His $2.5 million total includes about $1.8 million from the Republican State Leadership Committee, a national group whose chairman is former Republican Party of Virginia Chairman Ed Gillespie. That brings the group’s total donations to Mr. Obenshain to about $4.4 million.

Mr. Herring took in $664,242, and the non-partisan Virginia Public Access Project (VPAP) reported a $674,000 contribution for him from the Democratic Attorneys General Association on Monday.

The comparatively tight polling figures could be chalked up, in part, to “chamber of commerce” or “country club” Republicans who are fiscally conservative but turned off by the social positions of Mr. Cuccinelli and Mr. Jackson, Mr. Kidd said.

Republicans “think this is an office they can hold the line on,” Mr. Kidd said.

The Democratic Party of Virginia is certainly taking note as well, releasing a television ad Monday highlighting Mr. Obenshain’s support for a bill that requires women to undergo ultrasound imaging before they get an abortion.

But in an appeal Monday, Fairfax County Republican Committee Chairman Jay McConville acknowledged hearing similar chatter about Republican candidates being written off — and he told supporters to ignore it.

“As you undoubtedly know there are those in the media and elsewhere saying that our efforts have been for nothing, that we can’t win, and that we are divided. I take issue with that,” he wrote, going on to decry what he called Democrats’ attempts to “distract, confuse and manipulate the voters.”

“And they think they have won,” he continued. “Well, I disagree. I have faith in the people of Virginia. I know the informed voter will not be manipulated in this way.”

While the top-of-the-ballot race has become infamous for its mudslinging, the contest between Mr. Obenshain and Mr. Herring has been relatively civil. Mr. Obenshain has run ads featuring his daughter, Tucker, offering testimonials about her father.

Mr. Obenshain’s father, Richard D. Obenshain, was chairman of the state Republican Party in the 1970s and was seen as a rising GOP star. He died in a plane crash in 1978 after winning the party’s nomination for U.S. Senate.

Mark Obenshain’s sister, Kate, is a prominent conservative author and commentator. The name still carries significant weight in many Virginia GOP circles.

“They’ve been in Virginia forever and they (Virginians) know the Obenshain name,” Mr. Kidd said.

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