When pro-life Republican Ken Cuccinelli lost a narrow election to pro-abortion candidate Terry McAuliffe in the race for governor in Virginia, some political pundits and pro-abortion Republicans suggested the abortion issue hurt the Republican candidate.
However, a new study finds the opposite is true and that a concerted effort by Cuccinelli and his supported to highlight McAluliffe’s pro-abortion views almost won him the election.
Consider the following from Campaigns and Elections magazine, which should help pro-life groups make the case that pro-life candidates are helped on the issue of abortion — whether they win or lose. When they win, it’s in part because of the abortion issue. When pro-life candidates lose, they would have lost by a larger margin without the pro-life advantage.
Virginia’s 2013 gubernatorial election was much closer than anyone, with the possible exception of Terry McAuliffe’s data team, expected. Rather than the 7-point drubbing the poll averages suggested, it came down to about 55,000 votes out of more than 2 million cast, a 2.5 percent margin.
Evolving Strategies and the Middle Resolution PAC conducted experimental research that suggests an aggressive attack on McAuliffe for supporting ObamaCare was ineffective at best and counter-productive at worst. An attack on McAuliffe’s business record possibly helped, but was anemic.
What moved the voters most was an attack on McAuliffe’s positions on abortion; a single phone message emphasizing McAuliffe’s support for unrestricted, late-term, and taxpayer-funded abortions shifted support a net 13 to 15 points away from McAuliffe and toward Cuccinelli. The cost per vote here was a remarkably cheap $0.50 per additional vote, and even less expensive still when targeting the most persuadable segment of the electorate.
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A topic declared radioactive by nearly everyone, locked away in secure storage behind a blazing Hazmat warning by the Cuccinelli campaign, appears to have been a powerful weapon for the Republican ticket that could have substantially closed the gap, and possibly even won Cuccinelli the election.