VA Senate: The courting of Cuccinelli
It may be the most coveted endorsement in the Republican Primary for U.S. Senate. Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, while controversial overall, is beloved by the conservative wing of the Republican Party. In a race with one clear front runner and several long shots, a well placed nod from the right wing rock star could mean the difference between an expected outcome and a shocking upset.
For the record, Cuccinelli may not play a role in the primary at all, but in typical fashion he is not ruling anything out. His political spokesman Noah Wall made it clear that in the short term, the Attorney General is not getting involved.
“We have not endorsed in the 2012 Senate race,” Wall said “And have no plans to make any endorsement this year.”
But 2011 will be over soon and come January, Cuccinelli may receive a full court press from those hoping for an upset.
Among them? Tim Donner, the wealthy Northern Virginia businessman with virtually zero name recognition. Donner recently posted photos of him with Cuccinelli at the Fairfax City Republican Committee meeting.
Donner and Cuccinelli seem to have quite a bit in common and the candidate said he would welcome the support of the Attorney General.
“I would be honored to have Ken Cuccinelli’s endorsement,” Donner said “He and I agree on most important matters.”
But Donner and every other candidate in the GOP primary will have to wait.
“We’ve been clear with all candidates about our position on that race,” said Wall.
That includes Jamie Radtke, the former Tea Party leader from Chesterfield and a longtime supporter of Cuccinelli. Much like Donner, Radtke and Cuccinelli are in agreement on most fiscal and social issues. Unlike Donner, Radtke doesn’t have an incredible amount of money to fall back on and a well placed Cuccinelli endorsement could give her campaign the type of late momentum that could surprise the field.
For now, Team Radtke isn’t concerning themselves with that potential scenario.
“Jamie respects Attorney General Cuccinelli’s desire to not endorse a candidate in the Senate primary until next year.” said Chuck Hansen, Radtke’s spokesman.
And then there is George Allen, the candidate that stands to lose the most if Cuccinelli decides to get involved. While Radtke, Donner and the others appear to be willing to fight the good fight, there is little indication that their campaigns have had much resonance. Allen rarely refers to his primary opponents and has drawn all of his distinctions with the likely democratic nominee, Tim Kaine.
Allen has more money, more name recognition and a longer resume that the rest of the field combined. His only drawback could be a potential fatigue and desire for something new. However those alternatives may never get a voice without a serious boost. A boost that someone like Cuccinelli can bring.
Allen meanwhile continues to run as if the primary is nothing more than a minor stumbling block. Most political insiders agree. Bearing Drift, the leading conservative voice on the internet, said last week that Kaine is Allen’s only “meaningful opponent“.
When asked if he is seeking Cuccinelli’s endorsement his spokesperson Katie Wright told me “Governor Allen is actively seeking the support of all Republican activists, leaders and elected officials, as well as Independents and conservative Democrats.”
That sounds a lot more like a campaign concerned about the general election, not a primary.
Until the field of primary opponents can shock the landscape with a boost similar to the endorsement of someone like Cuccinelli, expect it to remain that way.
**Decision Virginia Note: Ryan Nobles is scheduled to sit down for an interview with Republican Primary candidate Tim Donner Wednesday afternoon. It is their first interview of the primary campaign. Look for more on that interview Wednesday evening.