Why Ken Cuccinelli Is the Anti-Chris Christie

Christie, the governor of New Jersey, is a moderate conservative cruising to reelection; Cuccinelli, currently the attorney general of Virginia, is the darling of the GOP base and not much more. Christie has a double-digit lead over his Democratic challenger, State Senator Barbara Buono; Cuccinelli is down by about five points to former Democratic National Committee Chair, Clinton crony, and alleged grifter Terry McAuliffe, according to the latest pair of polls.

Christie’s strength in the reliably blue Garden State and Cuccinelli’s weakness in the Old Dominion are about persona, policy, and political reality. Christie knows that he’s the governor of a state that has consistently gone for Democratic presidential candidates over the last two decades. On the other hand, Cuccinelli fantasizes that Virginia voted for John McCain and Mitt Romney, and that ethnic-slurring George Allen made it to the Senate.

But Cuccinelli’s problems go deeper than that. Right now, he is underperforming even Romney’s showing in Virginia. Romney lost the state, but still managed to win its upscale voters and white women—Cuccinelli is losing both blocs to McAuliffe.

Cuccinelli has undoubtedly been harmed by an ethics and gift scandal that has ensnared the sitting and term-limited Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell, the reported subject of a federal grand jury probe. Still, it’s not just about McDonnell’s allegedly sticky fingers. Cuccinelli, too, suffers from ethical myopia (or dulled political judgment), even if he has been formally cleared of possible ethics violations.

Specifically, Cuccinelli owned stock in Star Scientific, the very same company whose chief, Jonnie Williams, showered both McDonnell and Cuccinelli with gifts—gifts that Cuccinelli has refused to return in kind or in cash. In all, only $18,000 or so is involved, and yet Cuccinelli cannot find it in himself to cut a check. Not surprisingly, McAuliffe hammers away on this sore point, leaving Cuccinelli trailing and the story festering.

More worrisome for Republicans is Cuccinelli’s incapability of eliding over hot-button social issues. As Virginia’s outgoing Republican Lt. Governor Bill Bolling sees it, Cuccinelli is a “rigid ideologue who thrives on conflict and confrontation and tends to be drawn to the more controversial and divisive issues of the day.” http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/08/26/why-ken-cuccinelli-is-the-anti-chris-christie.html