Center Seat: Ken Cuccinelli on gubernatorial campaign, GOP divide

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," October 28, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Welcome back. Let's bring back our panel plus our Center Seat guest tonight, Virginia Attorney General, Republican candidate for governor, Ken Cuccinelli. General thanks for being here.


BAIER: Let's start with the status of this race. The Real Clear Politics average of polls has the race, Terry McAuliffe 46 percent, you at 36.8 percent, and the libertarian candidate Robert Sarvis at 9.5 percent.  I thought I'd start with a Twitter question. Keith Kingsolver writes, "Do you think the government shutdown played a major role in the polling in Virginia now. Did it hurt your campaign?"

CUCCINELLI: Well, you know, Virginia with the odd year campaigns people pay attention late. It's not like the presidential cycle. I was behind in 2009 and I ended up getting more votes for attorney general than anyone in history in '09. So we have a lot of movement in October.

But the government shutdown certainly drew people's attention. And obviously in Virginia we're on the other side of the Potomac a lot of people get in their car every day and cross that river to come work over here. So just the attention away from things like ObamaCare, taxes, energy, those issues that are going to affect Virginia in the next four years delayed our ability to get to voters, at least to be on the front burner, so to speak. And that's where we are now.

BAIER: So it hurt.

CUCCINELLI: And that's what we have to close with.

BAIER: It hurt?

CUCCINELLI: Well, it compressed time we have to get people while they're paying attention to this race.

BAIER: Steve?

STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Bret mentioned Robert Sarvis, obviously this independent, libertarian-style candidate. He is taking as many as I think the Real Clear Politics average was 9.5 percent, 9.5 points if you look at the Quinnipiac poll and other polls. If his voters were your voters, you would be winning. How concerned are you about him, and what's your pitch to libertarian-style voters?

CUCCINELLI: Well, I'm the most-accomplished pro-liberty candidate that's actually been elected statewide in Virginia in my lifetime. So what we talk to them about is my actual accomplishments -- being the first to challenge ObamaCare, being an attorney general who's going to leave office having helped exonerate more wrongfully convicted felons than any other AG in history. So whether it's fighting for one person or whether it's fighting the biggest opponent of all, the federal government, I've been there to fight for liberty. And no one has a Virginia --

HAYES: Just to follow up briefly, why is he doing so well? What is it about this race that has a third party candidate like him doing so well?

CUCCINELLI: Well, we had third party race candidates in four of our races in the last 20 years. And they've all sucked up a lot of space in October, and they've all come down below two percent on Election Day. So we have to make our pitch for smaller government, limited government, why it's better for Virginians, and the fact that I have an actual record, whether it's property rights, whether it's health care, whether it's taxes, that's appealing to folks who believe like I do that we need to be limiting government, that we need to be protecting liberty.

BAIER: Kirsten?

KIRSTEN POWERS, COLUMNIST, NEW YORK POST: The polls have showed you have a pretty big gap with women.

BAIER: I think we have a Quinnipiac poll.

POWERS: About 20 to 25 points depending on the poll. Why do you think that is? And is there a message that's not resonating with them?

CUCCINELLI: Let's face it, we face tens of millions of dollars of pure negative campaigning. One thing that I say to Virginia audiences and I'll say it to this one is tell me one thing, one positive plan that Terry McAuliffe has run on and explained to anyone, and they can't, because he hasn't.  They've spent it beating the tar out of me and frequently lying about things like contraception that women care about, about divorce of all things, and fitting it into their narrative. So I have a record of fighting sexual assault, human trafficking, domestic violence. And we're trying to push that message out. And that's part of what we're doing delivering one voter at a time in the last week.

POWERS: How is your view on divorce been distorted?

CUCCINELLI: Well, we have years ago put bills in to protect children in that process, and they just grab the bills and they'll lie about them in a TV ad to scare women. So it's been pretty blatant. I mean, Hillary Clinton --

POWERS: The claim is you oppose no-fault divorce?

CUCCINELLI: Right. And with children present, the proposal was to force there to be fault so that you have to take care of the children because they're the ones who get left behind. They get left behind in this. The adults get taken care of. The children get left behind. So that's been a focus for me.
BAIER: Charles?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: To follow-up on the Twitter question on the shutdown, the narrative in town that's been sort of -- it's been written about and talked about endlessly in the media and by Democrats is the great civil war among Republicans. The shutdown was sort of the backwash of what was happening over ObamaCare and the civil war is presumably between the Tea Party and the establishment. You're sort of an innocent bystander of that. But where do you -- A, do you believe there really is this sort of war among Republicans? And, B, in the conflict between them, if you believe it's there, where are your sympathies, with the insurgents or with the establishment?

CUCCINELLI: Look, I have never seen a time in my over 20 years of being either a volunteer or a candidate in the Republican Party where there wasn't friction going on, contests of one kind or another going on. I can't remember a time when that wasn't the case. And in Virginia I'll tell you that we've had support among Republicans across the spectrum. We also have, you know, John Edwards political consultant is a Democrat, he's supporting me. I've got a Democrat school board member in Richmond supporting me.  We've got a whole passel of Democrats in Northern Virginia supporting me.

So they have their own challenges. The focus tends to be more on Republicans on such things. But we've gathered support across the spectrum. And I have never won a race without Republican, independent, and Democrat and libertarian and vegetarian support. I mean we have it across the spectrum.

KRAUTHAMMER: Do you think the rise of the Tea Party is healthy within the GOP?

CUCCINELLI: Well, it isn't within the GOP. Anything that turns a new group of people on to the political process I think is a very positive thing. And we want more turnout. We want to focus on first principles.  We want to be protecting liberty, the earlier question. And we want to make that central to the race. That's why things like ObamaCare, taxes, energy policy are central to the race.

BAIER: We'll talk about those things right after a short break. More with the panel and Ken Cuccinelli after this.

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