In 2002, I got to know Ken Cuccinelli as he was running for the Virginia Senate seat that I lived in at the time. He is extremely smart and I was very impressed with his ability to take a very conservative issue set and be able to relate it one on one with voters that didn't share his ideology. Most politicians with his views would have never been successful in that district, but Cuccinelli is an extremely talented person.
But one thing keeps happening to Ken- and it's spotlighted as he gets more public attention as Attorney General and now a candidate for Governor. He seems completely incapable of being able to work with co-equals- in other elected offices, government officials and the fourth estate. He is also incapable of responding to news stories as they are breaking with his thoughts- Ken goes into hiding and then reacts days or weeks later. In the new digital world his response times are a disaster.
Take for example Cuccinelli's former colleagues in the Virginia Senate on the GOP side. A majority of Republican Senators who served with him and are now out of office through retirement or defeat are not endorsing his campaign. A majority. The reason for this is Ken actively worked with conservative groups to field primary challenges to a number of incumbents who differed with him on issues. Not just one or two challenges to the most liberal, but many Republicans believe at the GOP's peak of 24 Senate seats that Ken was working in 14 districts to find conservative primary challengers. Ironically one of the ten that Ken found conservative enough for him was Bill Bolling, then a Senator from Hanover that Ken later endorsed over Sean Connaughton for Lt. Governor in 2005. Now Bill Bolling is supporting Terry McAuliffe because Ken is too conservative for him!
When I released the audio of Ken in 2010 speculating on whether President Obama was born in the United States Ken took over 24 hours to respond. When he finally did, he failed to apologize for what was on the tape- only claiming that he thought the President was born in America. So why not say that to the person you were talking to instead of telling them how you could possibly challenge his birth certificate in court? Ken's response defied all credibility.
Then when Julian Walker broke the story about Ken's office altering the Virginia flag to cover up the exposed breast on the flag- it took an entire weekend for his office to respond. Amazingly instead of apologizing they tried to defend it. How did the public view this absurdity? Check out this Pilot poll from that time.
$55,000 in donations from a guy that was later found to be stealing the money from veterans with a fake charity? Took Ken a few months to get around to returning that money, even when everyone else who took the money returned it promptly. Gifts from Johnie Williams? Took Ken a month more than even the Governor to return those. While I'm sympathetic to Ken's argument that it took him a while to put together the money- nothing was stopping him from announcing immediately he would return the money as soon as he could get together to cash to do so. Failing to do that made it appear he was forced into doing the right thing instead of needing time to do so.
Even when Ken had his campaign "shakeup" last week- the campaign allowed conservative bloggers to rip into the marginalized campaign manager without a response. Uh, this guy still works for you Ken. This is not the kind of politician you would want to be in a foxhole with apparently.
Why am I writing this today? Earlier today at an official Ken Cuccinelli rally, 10th district Republican Chair John Whitbeck opened up with an anti-semitic joke. No response from Ken when he spoke. No response after. Now the joke is making the rounds all over the country and Ken still hasn't responded. What is so difficult about responding to this and condemning what Whitbeck said?
Looking at the Ken's career, I'm really starting to wonder if he has some sort of disability that prevents him from responding to things quickly. All of these negative stories that Ken has allowed to get out of hand are why he is viewed so negatively in public opinion despite the huge advantages Republicans have in Virginia with an off year electorate. The reason I wonder if this is a disability is Ken is so smart with many other things and comes extremely prepared to things- one reason why he got the NVTC endorsement. But he just can't seem to play nicely with others, or respond quickly to legitimate negative press stories that are sinking his campaign. At this rate, I guess we'll know by Friday if Ken agrees that leading off his rally with a Jewish joke is ok.
UPDATE: How could I forget the recent GOP convention where Ken had 10 hours to intervene and stop E.W. Jackson from getting the nomination and badly hurting his own campaign- and failed to be able to react in time.
UPDATE #2- Chris Lacivita now claiming the campaign "doesn't even know who this guy is". Totally false. Noah Wall, Cuccinelli's political director worked closely with Whitbeck to win the 10th district committee elections in 2012 in order to take over the Republican State Central Committee so they could flip from a primary to a convention for this election. The campaign now outright lying about their close relationship with Whitbeck just shows how clueless they are- everyone involved in Loudoun GOP politics knows better.
UPDATE #3- Appreciate Chris LaCivita making the point of this post right when I wrote it. An hour ago he was claiming the Cuccinelli campaign didn't know who Whitbeck was. Now photos have surfaced of Whitbeck *nominating* Cuccinelli for Governor at the convention this year. That's an honor that is carefully picked by the campaign- and LaCivita's lie blowing up so fast goes to show how they can not seem to handle media at all.