RNC Allies Ward Off Cuccinelli Attack

by Jonathan Strong

Republican National Committee allies are offering an interesting defense to critics saying the campaign committee could have done more to help the Virginia gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli: Blame former RNC chairman Michael Steele.

Steele dropped a staggering $9 million in 2009 into Governor Bob McDonnell’s race despite the fact that McDonnell never trailed in a single poll.

“In my opinion, it was just frivolous spending,” says a Republican source close to the campaign in Virginia. “We were paying off that race in 2011 when we should have been getting ready for the presidential,” the source says. “It handcuffed us.”

Contrast the $9 million figure with the 2005 Virginia’s governors race, when the RNC spent $1.1 million to help Jerry Kilgore, who lost to Democrat Tim Kaine by about six points.

Another data point is the New Jersey gubernatorial race in 2009, when the RNC spent around $3 million to help now-governor Chris Christie — about the same amount it spent on Cuccinelli, but in a more expensive state.

Cuccinelli campaign strategist Chris La Civita told the Washington Post that the lack of support from the RNC and other national organizations hurt the campaign’s ability to stay on the air with television ads.

“There are a lot of questions people are going to be asking and that is, was leaving Cuccinelli alone in the first week of October, a smart move?” La Civita told the Post. “We were on our own. Just look at the volume [of ads].”

In the Cuccinelli race, the RNC focused its resources on imitating President Obama’s on-the-ground campaign techniques, with a ultra-local precinct-based approach, including over 50 local offices and 60 to 70 paid staff on the ground.

“We lived up to our end of the bargain,” the GOP source says, noting that Cuccinelli raised significantly less than McDonnell on his own.