President Barack Obama’s national health care law seems to be the major fault line for Terry McAuliffe and Ken Cuccinelli who are both looking to make Tuesday’s election for governor into a referendum for the law’s overhaul.
McAuliffe planned to campaign Monday with Vice President Joe Biden a day after Obama weighed in, throwing national Democrats' full backing into the race. Cuccinelli, meanwhile, would be campaigning with Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and planned his final campaign rally with former Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, a hero of the libertarian wing of the GOP.
Seeking an upset, Cuccinelli pledged to continue his fight against the Democrats' national health care law. As Virginia's attorney general, he was the first to file a lawsuit trying to declare it unconstitutional. While the Supreme Court rejected his argument, he has not stopped his crusade against it.
McAuliffe has embraced the law and has pledged to use it to expand Medicaid in the state to provide health coverage for 400,000 Virginians. The federal government picks up the entire tab for expansion in the first few years, with the state picking up a portion of it in later years.
Cuccinelli says that is going to blow a huge hole in the state's budget and binds future governors.
"No more Obamacare in Virginia," Cuccinelli said Sunday. "That's the message we can send."
McAuliffe says the Medicaid expansion keeps Virginia tax dollars closer to home. He says the alternative is for Virginians to pick up the Medicaid coverage for other states.
In advertising, direct mail and phone calls, the health care law is the top issue both candidates are pushing.
As one of just two gubernatorial races in the nation, the results of Tuesday's vote could hold clues about voter attitudes and both parties' messages heading into the 2014 midterm elections when control of Congress will be at stake. Democrats see Virginia as a test case for other competitive states and are eager for a win there to show their approach to governing is resonating with voters.
Polls show McAuliffe ahead and campaign finance reports show a dramatically lopsided dynamic, with television airtime tilted in McAuliffe's favor by a 10-to-1 margin.
That has led Cuccinelli to focus on reaching conservative voters almost exclusively. He uses his campaign stops to energize his own backers, many of whom disapprove of the president and detest his health care law.
Rubio, a rising star in the GOP and potential 2016 presidential contender, was slated to campaign with Cuccinelli during the day. An evening rally in Richmond was set to include Paul, a favorite of the libertarian wing of his party whose endorsement could bring along voters who had sided with third-party candidate Robert Sarvis.
The race is going to be decided by the few Virginians who choose to vote. The state Board of Elections chief says turnout could be as low as 30 percent of registered voters and the campaigns see 40 percent turnout as the goal.
"If mainstream Virginians from both parties don't turn out to vote," McAuliffe said Sunday, "you're letting the tea party decide Virginia's future."
Based on reporting by the Associated Press.