"In your lifetime, much of your potential -- or lack thereof -- can be known simply by swabbing the inside of your cheek," Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) said at Liberty University on Monday, during a rally for the Virginia GOP's nominee for governor, Ken Cuccinelli. "Are we prepared to select out the imperfect among us?"
The senator was making an argument against abortion rights by conjuring eugenics, a pseudo-science of genetic improvement that resulted in sterilization laws across America in the 20th century. And he was possibly plagiarizing from Wikipedia to do it.
If Cuccinelli were leading in polls -- even his own poll -- appealing to the far right with abstruse arguments that have almost no appeal to swing voters probably wouldn't be a very good idea with only eight days until the election.
But Paul -- a Tea Party favorite -- was in Virginia to shore up Cuccinelli's support among libertarians currently trending to the Libertarian Party nominee Robert Sarvis, who refuses to identify as anti-abortion.
Until the government shutdown and polls that show him losing by as much as 17 percent, Cuccinelli had veered away from social issues, attempting to avoid pointing out that he opposes same-sex sex even as a majority of America accepts same-sex marriage. But at this point the Republican nominee is just trying to hold on to his base, hoping the electorate resembles 2010 much more than 2012.
Meanwhile, Bill Clinton is crisscrossing the state with his old friend, Democratic nominee for governor Terry McAuliffe. And as he did when he barnstormed for President Obama in the final days before the last presidential election, Clinton was aiming right down the center.
"If we become ideological, then we're blind to evidence," the former president said on Sunday. "We can only hear people who already agree with us. We think we know everything right now, and we have nothing to learn from anybody."
McAuliffe is definitely running a far more liberal campaign than his fellow Democrats, Senators Mark Warner (D-VA) and Tim Kaine (D-VA), who have recently won statewide elections in Virginia.
"Like the president, McAuliffe has endorsed gay marriage; universal background checks for gun purchases; an assault-weapons ban; a pathway to citizenship for immigrants here illegally; a mandate on employers offering health insurance to include free contraception coverage; and limits on carbon emissions from new coal-fired power plants," The National Journal's Ron Brownstein reports, in a story examining how McAuliffe is winning as a "liberal Democrat" in purple Virginia. "He would also reverse the tight restrictions on abortion clinics championed by state Republicans led by Cuccinelli and outgoing Gov. Bob McDonnell."
The combination of these ideas moving into the mainstream along with the contrast to Cuccinelli's fundamentalism has given the Democrat a chance to still position himself as a centrist.
While his tone can be harsh, Cuccinelli's policies are generally in the mainstream of the GOP's base, represented by 2016 frontrunners Paul, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and former senator Rick Santorum.
Even Governors Scott Walker (R-WI) and Chris Christie (R-NJ) have defunded Planned Parenthood in their states. Still, Christie's willingness to literally embrace President Obama has positioned him as a "moderate" in the party. If he or former Governor Jeb Bush were to win their party's nomination in 2016, presenting the GOP with its third "moderate" candidate in a row, it's not hard to imagine the Tea Party wing of the party losing patience and finding its own nominee that would draw voters away from the Republican nominee, as Sarvis seems to be siphoning from Cuccinelli. (Perhaps that third-party nominee could even be Senator Paul, who begins his first run for president by inheriting a grassroots network built up during his father's two presidential campaigns.)
The next president of the United States will likely have to win in Virginia, where the Republican Party has recently suffered a complete implosion. And that person is not likely to be the person discussing eugenics a week before the election.
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