Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) is appearing at a fundraiser alongside Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) on Saturday and it’s starting to get a little more complicated than it probably should be.
Cruz and Cuccinelli are both scheduled to appear at a gala event hosted by the Family Foundation on Saturday night in Richmond. Cruz is the keynote speaker and Cuccinelli is slated to deliver special remarks.
Though the event has been scheduled for some time, Cruz’s rising-star status and focal point as the leader in the government shutdown debate makes the timing of the event awkward for Cuccinelli, who is running for governor in an increasingly blue state. Cuccinelli has to make sure he doesn’t alienate Virginia conservatives distancing himself from the darling of the right, but he also can’t get too closely associated with the Republican who Democrats have been gleefully attacking as the biggest advocate of a government shutdown. So, in the case of the Family Foundation event, the Cuccinelli campaign is saying that it’s not a campaign event, just an appearance of two prominent Republicans.
“No, it is not a campaign event,” Cuccinelli spokesman Richard Cullen told TPM on Friday.
Terry McAuliffe’s campaign — which has repeatedly been trying to widen a polling lead — has been quick to link Cuccinelli to Cruz. On Friday the campaign the campaign released yet another attack ad dedicated to connecting Cuccinelli to Cruz.
“Look who’s coming to Virginia this weekend,” the announcer said in the ad. “Ted Cruz – the Republican Senator from Texas who’s the leader of the government shutdown.”
In a separate email highlighting new polls showing McAuliffe leading Cuccinelli, the campaign also specifically mentioned Cruz.
The link is one that Cuccinelli’s campaign has been trying to walk a fine line on, as evidenced by a recent interview with The Washington Times.
After saying that the weekend fundraiser wasn’t a “campaign event,” Cullen told the Times, “We work with Ted Cruz. We work with a lot of conservatives who are coming to the state and campaigning for Ken.”
A Cruz aide also previously labeled the Richmond fundraiser a “campaign event” according to political reporter David Catanese.
But whether ties to a Republican star like Cruz will help him in a traditionally conservative state, or hurt him in a time when the state’s government contractors are feeling the squeeze of the shutdown, remains to be seen. McAuliffe’s campaign is betting on the latter.
“With a month left in the race, voters continue to side with Terry’s mainstream bipartisan approach over Ken Cuccinelli’s extreme ideological agenda,” McAuliffe spokesperson Josh Schwerin said in the email. “As we near election day expect Cuccinelli to increase his false and desperate attacks in an effort to distract voters from his extreme record and the fact that tomorrow he will be campaigning with Senator Ted Cruz, the architect of the government shutdown.”