Democratic nominee for Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe on Saturday relied on long-time friend and party superstar Hillary Clinton to help his campaign in the closing weeks of the tight, closely watched race.
The former First Lady and Secretary of State was on familiar ground, touting her support for women’s reproductive rights and fair pay -- issued on which McAuliffe also promised to make good.
“I am … so pleased as I look out in the audience to see a lot of familiar faces, but also to be here to enthusiastically endorse my friend Terry McAuliffe to be your next governor,” Clinton said at the “Women for Terry" rally in northern Virginia. “The whole country is watching this election, watching to see … if the rights of women and girls’ will be respected, especially their own bodies.”
Clinton cemented her place as a champion of women rights in 1995 when as First Lady she said at the United Nations’ World Conference of Women, in China, that “Human rights are women's rights, and women's rights are human rights." And she has made similar remarks at women-focused events since retiring this spring from the State Department.
But winning the women’s vote, particularly that of younger women, is not a lock should the 65-year-old Clinton, as widely anticipated, run for president in 2016. She barely won 50 percent of that bloc in her 2008 Democratic presidential primary loss to Barack Obama.
McAuliffe vowed, if elected, to veto any legislation that would restrict birth control and to fight to keep open clinics.
“I will oppose any legislation that is an effort to erode a woman’s right to make her own constitutional choices,” he said. “I want Virginia to be a brick wall to any efforts to take away your rights.”
McAuliffe is a former Democratic National Committee chairman but is perhaps better known as a major Clinton fundraiser.
He is in a tight race with Ken Cuccinelli, leading the Republican nominee by 7 percentage points, according to an averaging of polls by the website RealClearPolitics.
Each candidate has tried to portray the other's position on abortion as extreme, ahead of the Nov. 5 Election Day.
Cuccinelli opposes abortion except when the mother's life is in danger -- a position McAuliffe calls "very extreme" because it would not allow abortions in cases of rape, incest or to protect the mother's health.
Cuccinelli says McAuliffe favors taxpayer-funded abortion even in the third trimester. That makes McAuliffe "the only candidate with an extreme position on life," according to Cuccinelli spokeswoman Anna Nix.
McAuliffe calls his opponent's claim false. He says he would leave existing abortion laws intact.
Virginia law currently prohibits third-trimester abortions, and public funding is available for abortion only in cases of rape, incest, fetal impairment or life endangerment.
Fox News producer Jodie Curtis and the Associated Press contributed to this story.