BY STEPHANIE TIPPLE
With Election Day only two weeks away, notable figures in the Democratic and Republican Parties came to the Commonwealth of Virginia to show their support for their respective candidates in the gubernatorial race.
San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, a man considered to be a progressive rising star in the Democratic Party, and Hillary Clinton, who is potentially priming for a presidential race in 2016, both stomped for Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe this past week.
The Duggar family, famous for their TLC reality TV show, “19 Kids and Counting,” attended a rally to show their support for Cuccinelli’s campaign and his traditional family values.
These stumping appearances excited some Virginia voters, while making others ask why out-of-state leaders are taking such an interest in Virginia’s Governor race.
According to Stephan Farnsworth, professor of political science and director of the University of Mary Washington Center for Leadership and Media Studies, Virginia’s proximity to D.C. acts as a barometer of a party’s support for future races.
“It’s really the only game in town in 2013. Both sides will use the Virginia governor’s race, as they always do, as a leading political indicator of what things are going to be like in the midterm elections the next year,” Farnsworth said. “Virginia often has an outside influence in national politics because it’s not only in the swing state status, but because this governor’s election occurs right after a Presidential year.”
One thing Castro spoke on in his appearance is the fact that the nation was watching the Virginia race closely. While this may be the case, there are mixed feelings about the effectiveness of having support from outside figures at this stage in the election.
Ben Hermerding, president of the Young Democrats at UMW, believes that notable figures showing their support is important.
“I think the fact that Julian Castro and Hillary Clinton came forward to support McAuliffe is really important. This has been a vitriolic campaign by both sides, but, despite the fact that it’s been pretty negative, you’ve got national Democratic figures who are coming out to support McAuliffe for a better Virginia,” said Hermerding.
Max Reinhardt, chairman of the College Republicans, believes that Clinton is trying to pave the way for her presidential campaign.
“It’s showing that Hillary Clinton is back in the game–she’s stumping for the first time in five years. The Clintons are trying to lay the ground work for Hillary’s presidential run, so if they get a sympathetic governor in Virginia, they feel like they’ll have a better chance to win the state,” said Reinhardt.
According to Farnsworth and Hermerding, having the Duggar family show their support at a Cuccinelli campaign event may not have been the best move at a time where the focus is on moderate and undecided voters.
“This election will not be won or lost on the basis of the Tea Party–it will be won on the basis of the moderate voters, who on one day or another can be persuaded to vote Republican or Democrat, depending on the candidate and the circumstance,” said Farnsworth.
Farnsworth said in order for the Cuccinelli campaign to win, it needs to be more effective at winning the moderate vote.
“McAuliffe on the other hand, I think has been pretty effective at reaching out to those moderate voters,” said Farnsworth.
Hermerding echoed concerns about the effectiveness of the Duggars’ contribution.
“I don’t think it’s a wise choice, and I don’t think it’s going to help his campaign at all. The Duggar family has some unorthodox beliefs , and to tie them to your campaign just seems like a losing strategy at this point,” said Hermerding.
Reinhardt said he believes the Duggar’s appearance will have a neutral impact on moderates and Cuccinelli supporters.
“I think it will help–I think it certainly won’t hurt. I don’t think it’s going to be a big deal, and I don’t think anyone that was going to support Cuccinelli is going to turn away from him because the Duggars came to stump for him,” said Reinhardt.
Both candidates for the governor’s seat will continue to fight in the competitive race and are planning to address Virginia voters at their last debate, which will be televised on Oct. 24.