Despite polls showing him sliding behind in the Virginia governor’s race, it appears the 2016 GOP cavalry is coming to the aid of Ken Cuccinelli.
At least three prospective Republican candidates for president are expected to campaign for the attorney general this fall, The RUN has learned, continuing the tradition of pols with higher ambitions flocking to the commonwealth in the off year.
Sens. Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Rand Paul are all planning stops in the state on behalf of Cuccinelli, an arch conservative who is struggling in his bid against Democrat Terry McAuliffe to succeed scandal-soiled Gov. Bob McDonnell.
Historically, the party out of the White House is favored to win Virginia governor’s mansion, but Cuccinelli has been hobbled by a personal spending scandal ensnaring the McDonnell family and a perception that some of his views fall outside the mainstream of Virginia voters.
Yet pending visits by Rubio, Cruz and Paul underscore the importance of the race and the state to national Republicans and an indication they believe the seat remains in play.
An adviser to Rubio, who has sworn off early presidential primary state campaigning this year, confirmed the Florida senator is working on a date to campaign with Cuccinelli.
Cruz adviser Jason Johnson told The RUN the Texas freshman will be in the state October 5 to lend a hand.
Paul adviser Doug Stafford pointed out the Kentucky senator endorsed Cuccinelli almost a year ago and also has plans to go to Virginia.
Last week, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal griped to The Weekly Standard that Republicans weren’t doing enough to boost Cuccinelli.
“I think there are still too many people in the Republican party and the conservative movement who aren’t involved in that election and should be there helping to support Ken, that are worried about another loss or still doing self analysis,” Jindal the conservative magazine.
Jindal talked Cuccinelli up during the state GOP convention in May and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker held a fundraiser for the candidate in March.
Spokesmen for both governors did not return an inquiry about whether they would return for Cuccinelli this fall.
An adviser to Texas Gov. Rick Perry wasn’t aware of any plans to head to the state.
If Cuccinelli falls short in the contest, there’s little chance any of the 2016 candidates would be blamed. In fact, there’s more of a risk the candidates will be linked to him — and his more controversial statements — if he’s successful.
In 2009, both Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty campaigned for candidate Bob McDonnell before launching bids for president two years later.
On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton is set to hold a fundraiser for McAuliffe in late September. Vice President Joe Biden and Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, two other 2016 potentials, appeared in the state in June on McAuliffe’s behalf.