Legendary football coach Vince Lombardi once observed of a defeat: “We didn’t lose the game, we just ran out of time.” It’s an apt way to reflect on Ken Cuccinelli’s loss in Virginia tonight. He came up short, but finished dramatically stronger than expected, largely because he was gaining traction from the implosion of Obamacare. Terry McAuliffe doubled down on his support for the failed Affordable Care Act, and lost his double-digit lead. Cuccinelli was closing fast in the last week but didn’t have enough time. He’d begun digging himself out of a crater caused by the double hit from this summer’s McDonnell scandal and then the government shutdown, but it just wasn’t enough.
Much will be made in the days ahead of the “women’s vote” and the importance of the abortion issue to McAuliffe’s win. Sadly, there will be many who will draw the wrong conclusions. First, it’s essential to remember that Cucinnelli was not the only pro-life candidate running for governor tonight. Chris Christie, who won the governorship in New Jersey, is also pro-life and handily won 57 percent of female voters. As Katrina notes below, Christie vetoed public funding for Planned Parenthood five times and went on to beat his female Democratic opponent by twelve points among women.
Secondly, “women” are not a monolithic voting block. Although many are citing the exit-poll data showing female voters going for McAuliffe 52–41, among married women, 42 percent went for McAuliffe and 51 percent went for Cuccinelli — that’s even one percentage point higher than the Republicans’ total among married men. The real division was not sex, but marital status. Fifty-eight percent of unmarried men and 67 percent of unmarried women went for McAuliffe.
Take these two points together: Christie’s victory after tackling the life issue from an economic perspective and Cuccinelli’s winning married women while losing the unmarried ones suggest that we need to look carefully at issue framing.
The truth: Abortion harms women. The abortion lobby tries to obscure this by focusing on media-savvy champions like Wendy Davis, while, other women, like Karnamaya Mongar, Jennifer Morbelli, and Tonya Reaves, are much less fortunate. Don’t know who these women are? Each one of them died in an abortion clinic. But that tragic reality gets far less coverage than Wendy Davis’s pink running shoes.
Attributing McAuliffe’s win to the “women’s vote” is a cartoon caricature of half of the electorate. The simple fact is: Cucinelli didn’t even lose the game, he just ran out of time.
— Charmaine Yoest is president of Americans United for Life.