Chris LaCivita, Ken Cuccinelli’s chief political strategist during the recently ended gubernatorial campaign, says the federal-government shutdown crippled the Virginia Republican’s campaign more than any other factor. “It moved the disaster of Obamacare away from our narrative,” he says, in an interview with National Review Online. “It sucked the oxygen out of the room. Instead of talking about Obamacare, we were talking about the shutdown.”
In mid October, LaCivita says, the campaign was startled by how the shutdown affected their momentum. Their internal poll numbers dipped and several of the Virginia attorney general’s donors, especially conservative groups aligned with Cuccinelli, “suddenly became gun-shy.”
“It was this perfect storm of events that hurt us,” LaCivita says. “We had been preparing to use the October 1 start of Obamacare as the center of our strategy, and then it was just taken off the table. Once the shutdown ended, we worked hard to maximize what we could.”
LaCivita, however, doesn’t blame national Republican power brokers for Cuccinelli’s loss. Yes, he says, they spent less in Virginia than they did during the 2009 gubernatorial race, which was easily won by Republican Bob McDonnell. But they did step up, he says, and provided valuable support.
“The [Republican National Committee] funded our ground game, and I think that worked out well,” he says. “We can quibble with a few things done by the [Republican Governors Association], but at the end of the day, they spent over $8 million, and that’s not something to be ungrateful for.”