Virginians will finally get to see Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, Virginia’s gubernatorial hopefuls, square off in a debate Saturday morning after a week and a half of increasingly aggressive jabs from both campaigns.
Hosted by the Virginia Bar Association at The Homestead, the lavish resort in rural Hot Springs, Va., the debate is the first of the election and a prime opportunity for both candidates to wrestle for the upper hand.
Both candidates have spent the days leading up to the debate carefully establishing their own positions, while attacking the other's.
McAuliffe’s campaign launched a series of television ads taking Cuccinelli to task for his stances on the Violence Against Women Act and his office’s involvement in a lawsuit over royalties from natural gas mining.
In turn, Cuccinelli launched a website to defend his stances on anti-sodomy laws, touting them as laws to protect children and minors from sexual predators.
Cuccinelli has been lauded as an excellent debater, and it’s a skill he’s trying to use as best – and often – as he can.
The attorney general and Tea Party favorite has challenged McAuliffe to 15 debates, but McAuliffe has agreed to the customary five.
Throughout the campaign, McAuliffe and his camp have painted Cuccinelli as a candidate more concerned with his own “extreme” social agenda.
In turn, Cuccinelli’s campaign has called McAuliffe out for his dealings with GreenTech, his struggling car company, and criticized him for launching attacks instead of talking about the issues.
While both candidates have been campaigning tirelessly, much of the media’s attention has been focused on the investigation into Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell and gifts members of his family received from Jonnie Williams, CEO of nutritional supplement maker Star Scientific.
Cuccinelli knows Williams personally and could face questions about his involvement in the mess. The investigation has prompted both candidates to call for changes to laws regulating gifts for elected officials.
McAuliffe was leading Cuccinelli in polls released Tuesday.
According to Public Policy Polling, a Democratic polling organization, McAuliffe won 41 percent of survey takers compared to Cuccinelli’s 37 percent.
The debate will be streamed live online by PBS NewsHour beginning at 11 a.m. Stream the video here.