Fairfax, Va. — Ken Cuccinelli couldn’t watch the video clip of President Obama going 2 for 22 in shooting free throws. As a basketball fan, he says, he found it too painful. “I sort of felt for him,” Cuccinelli recalls. “There are just some things about being president that are difficult.”
“I don’t care whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat,” he adds. “Going 2 for 22 is embarrassing. I just don’t think we should beat on the man for that.”
Yet Cuccinelli can’t resist taking one jab at Obama: “Maybe he’s putting his recreational time into golf, and so he’s not getting his basketball time in,” he cracks. Still, “I could easily see going 2 for 22,” Cuccinelli laughs. “So I’m not going to say anything.”
Keeping his opinion to himself is not something Cuccinell is known for. As Virginia attorney general, he led the legal fight against Obamacare. In February, he released a new book on politics that was rather less bland than most politicians’ books: “If Virginia’s ultra-conservative attorney general needs to appeal to moderate Republicans in his campaign for governor, his new book probably isn’t going to help,” wrote the Associated Press about The Last Line of Defense: The New Fight for American Liberty. A U.S. News interview with Cuccinelli about the book was headlined “Ken Cuccinelli: Obama Has Trampled the Constitution and Hurt Our Economy.”
Cuccinelli brushes off concerns that he’s too conservative to be elected governor in Virginia, a once solidly Republican state that went for Obama narrowly in 2008 and 2012. He doesn’t deny that Virginia is “about as split as you can be.” But he points out that while commonwealth voters have elected Democrats at the federal level in recent years (Obama, Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner), Republicans still dominate the top positions in the state government, including governor (Bob McDonnell) and lieutenant governor (Bill Bolling). “That’s fine,” Cuccinelli remarks of the newly purple Virginia. “Competition’s a good thing. So let’s compete.”
On this first Saturday in April, Cuccinelli is at the opening ceremonies for local Little League teams. There is a parade: Cuccinelli, like other local politicos, rides in a convertible, waving to the bystanders, who are bundled up in brightly colored coats on this sunny, chilly day. Wearing a navy sport coat, a yellow polo shirt, and loose blue jeans, with a baseball glove on his left hand, the graying Cuccinelli looks Dad-like enough to give Full House’s Bob Saget a run for his money. Marching behind the politicians are hundreds of Little League youngsters who play for the Blue Wahoos, Ironbirds, and Hot Rods, among other teams.
At the baseball field where the parade ends, Cuccinelli points out that if one of his aides stations himself at the announcer’s booth behind home plate, the aide will be positioned at a great angle to a capture Cucinelli throwing one of the ceremonial first pitches. When Cuccinelli throws out the pitch, the aide snaps the shot. Hours later, Cuccinelli’s campaign tweets a wide-angle photo of Cuccinelli on the mound, about to throw, with hundreds of Little League kids behind him. Cuccinelli was right. It’s a great angle.
Walking to the car afterward, I ask Cuccinelli about his family. He and his wife, Teiro, have seven children, ranging from three years old to college age. “Going home” is his favorite part about having so many kids. “It’s a great arrival when they’re up, which is most days,” he says. “It’s wonderful. I don’t even know how to describe it.” Swimming, not baseball, is the sport most favored by the Cuccinelli family. Cuccinelli says he’s risen many a Saturday morning at five to take the children to swim meets.
The five oldest children are daughters; the two youngest, who tussle occasionally, are boys. (Cuccinelli refers to one of his sons as “Osama bin Cute-in” because he’s a “domestic terrorist.”) Cuccinelli insists that he generally does not, as do the fathers of some large families I know, accidentally call his children by the wrong name. “The two there used to be a problem with were [daughters] Riley and Reagan,” he reminisces. “We named two children in a row with the same first letter. It never occurred to me this would be a problem, but in that period of their lives where I needed to yell at them a lot, then it was a problem,” he says lightly, before launching into an imitation of how he would shout their names.