WASHINGTON — It could be the October surprise that opens up the close race for governor in Virginia.
The federal government shutdown is now topic No. 1 for both candidates.
Republican candidate Ken Cuccinelli spent Thursday morning holding a roundtable discussion on the impact of the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, on Virginians. The attorney general has been an outspoken critic of the health care program and went to court in an effort stop it.
On the same day, Democrat candidate Terry McAuliffe released a new TV advertisement reminding voters of Cuccinelli’s ties to the tea party, the group that has been leading the fight on Capitol Hill to tie defunding of Obamacare to passing a budget and reopening the government.
The ad criticizes Cuccinelli for bringing in Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz to campaign for him. Cruz is among the leaders in the effort to defund Obamacare.
Mark Rozell, public policy professor at George Mason University, says that may be the wrong strategy for Cuccinelli. He says the government shutdown may increase turnout among Democrats.
“For Democrats who may have been disheartened by the campaign, not enthusiastic about Terry McAullife, here they have an opportunity to send a message to the Republican party more generall,” says Rozell.
“He’s gotta find some what to shift the dialogue to more local issues here in Virginia to get people to think about something other than the government shutdown.”
Cuccinelli, who has said he opposes the federal shutdown, which he blames on the Democrats.
But earlier this week, in an interview with WTOP, Cuccinelli said he has not talked about the impact on Virginia with Cruz or other Tea Party supporters.
“We have other folks who will come in later on in October and we’ll certainly have that discussion when they are here,” says Cuccinelli.
Virginia has an estimated 172,000 federal employees and thousands more people who work for companies under a federal contract.