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Terry McAuliffe Delivers On Campaign Promise To Protect And Advance Women's Health

Dawn Laguens   |   May 13, 2014    7:26 PM ET

We hear it all the time: "Elections matter." This week we have concrete evidence that the adage really is true. Making good on promises he made during his campaign, Governor Terry McAuliffe has taken critical steps to protect women in the Commonwealth of Virginia's ability to make their own healthcare decisions.

To kick off National Women's Health Week, Governor McAuliffe signaled a new direction for oversight of women's health in Virginia. He announced several new appointments to the Board of Health, sending a clear message to his fellow elected officials that recommendations should be based on health and safety rather than ideology. With these new members on the Board of Health who share his commitment to safeguarding women's health, Governor McAuliffe is restoring integrity and public confidence in this important entity.

Most importantly, McAuliffe directed the Board of Health to review the state's restrictions on women's health centers that perform abortions. Like other abortion restrictions, this law was passed under the guise of protecting patient safety. Unfortunately, it does the opposite.

Abortion is an extremely safe medical procedure. Data, including from the CDC, shows that abortion has over a 99 percent safety record. There is no medical basis for these restrictions, passed under former Governor Bob McDonnell and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, which is why they are strongly opposed by doctors and medical groups.

Far from protecting women's health, these restrictions jeopardize women's health and safety by forcing health care providers to close. Since Virginia's regulations were approved, five of the state's 23 abortion providers have closed, with more expecting to close without McAuliffe's intervention. The result has been that women in need not only of an abortion but also of birth control, STI testing, and cancer screenings have been forced to travel far distances, or do without.

With over half of all pregnancies in Virginia unintended, and with 375,500 women statewide in need of affordable contraceptive services and supplies, the people of Virginia are in desperate need of increased access to health care, not less. Think about it -- who is best suited to be writing medical regulations to meet the needs of Virginia women?

At the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, we think that medical regulations should be written by medical experts - that's why we knew we had to work hard to keep Ken Cuccinelli out of the Governor's mansion.

As it became clear that Cuccinelli would become the nominee, Planned Parenthood advocacy and political organizations launched the $2.4 million "Keep Ken Out" campaign. In the end, women won this race for McAuliffe, with McAuliffe winning women by 9 points -- flipping Republican Governor Bob McDonnell's 8 point advantage with women that propelled him to victory in 2009. Notably, 20 percent of Virginia voters said abortion was the most important issue in determining their vote, and McAuliffe won 59 percent of those votes. Among the rising Virginia electorate, McAuliffe won overwhelmingly, winning among unmarried women by 42 points, and among African American women by 84 points.

In a contest that was won by only two points overall, the role that women's health and rights played in motivating women to turn out to vote for McAuliffe cannot be overstated. In fact, they not only played a decisive role in defeating Cuccinelli, but flipped all the statewide offices, as well as the state Senate.

With over half of American women now living in a state hostile to their health care access, the stakes are high, and Planned Parenthood advocacy and political organizations will be applying the lessons we learned in Virginia to many races across the country where we know women's health can play a key role. More and more, voters view women's health care -- including access to affordable birth control and safe, legal abortion -- as a litmus test in deciding for whom they will vote. As a trusted messenger, it's our job to make sure they have the facts about where the candidates stand.

We're willing to bet that folks in North Carolina, Colorado, and Alaska, among other states, agree with folks in Virginia that politicians have no business getting between a woman and her doctor. And that's why they'll send women's health champions like Senator Kay Hagan, Senator Mark Udall, and Senator Mark Begich back to the United States Senate.

The bottom line is that attacking women's health is not only bad policy; it's bad politics. Gov. McAuliffe is keeping his promise to voters, and nationwide voters are delivering their commitment to support candidates who understand that basic health care should not depend on one's zip code.

Learn more about our campaign at

Ken Cuccinelli Rolls in His Political Grave While Ted Cruz Tries to Resurrect Him

Michelangelo Signorile   |   February 14, 2014   11:01 AM ET

It was only a few short months ago that Virginia's Republican former Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli was running for governor of the commonwealth on a platform that included banning sodomy again. And we all know how that turned out.

Now a federal judge has ruled that gays and lesbians in Virginia must have the right to marry. And Cuccinelli's successor, Democratic Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, refused to defend the state's gay marriage ban in the case, joining the newly elected Democratic governor, Terry McAuliffe, in backing marriage equality.

What a difference an election makes.

Cuccinelli, a true believer who was willing to go down with his ugly cause, is surely weeping today, watching the commonwealth sink into what he and his radical-right compatriots view as degradation when in fact the state is finally on the path to joining the ranks of those states offering full equality. The news out of Virginia is also yet another sign -- like they needed another -- that the GOP must make a real effort to move into the 21st century. When RNC chairman Reince Preibus called for anti-gay Michigan GOP committeeman Dave Agema to step down last month (though Agema sloughed it off and refused to resign), it looked like maybe they were beginning to get the message.

But this week, after federal rulings partially or fully striking down marriage bans in recent months in Oklahoma, Utah and Kentucky -- red states where, in two cases (Utah and Kentucky), a Republican or Republican-appointed judge handed down the decision -- Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas has decided that running against gay marriage is still a winning issue for the GOP.

Cruz, the man who brought the country and the world to the brink of economic collapse, leading the government shutdown and pushing to let the debt ceiling lapse, is reaching back to the Cuccinelli playbook. On the same day that Virginia's gay marriage ban was struck down, he introduced an anti-gay-marriage bill, and he will surely demand allegiance from the faithful among the GOP in the Senate. Of course, it proves once again the hypocrisy of the tea party, which claims to want government out of people's lives -- except when it comes to their relationships, their bodies and their private affairs.

Cruz, however, is framing his bill as a states' rights issue. It would basically bring back aspects of the Defense of Marriage Act, which was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court last year. It would amend U.S. law "with regard to the definition of 'marriage' and 'spouse' for Federal purposes and to ensure respect for State regulation of marriage." A bill in the House, introduced by GOP Congressman Randy Weber of Texas, similarly seeks to limit gay marriage.

Cruz's bill doesn't have a chance of getting a vote in the Democratic-controlled Senate this year, but it throws the issue of gay marriage back into the political campaigns. Tea party leader Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) is the only co-sponsor so far, but he and Cruz will surely be rounding up others. The tea party has been a charade from the get-go, of course, often recasting the same old extremists in a new light (shifting the focus back to cutting taxes), banding together with the anti-gay, anti-abortion zealots -- many of whom are one and the same as the tea party leaders, as we've seen with candidates of recent years like Nevada's Sharon Angle and Delaware's Christine O'Donnell, as well as Sen. Mike Lee, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Cruz himself.

Cruz's effort is all part of a new strategy among religious zealots and anti-gay groups casting themselves as the victims of religious discrimination and attacks on their free speech, and Cruz and Sarah Palin used the Duck Dynasty controversy to great effect on this one. Cruz has warned that gay marriage will lead to pastors being charged with "hate speech." Anti-gay GOP forces in several states are now pushing "religious liberty" bills, like one in Kansas that the Wichita Eagle dubbed a "license to discriminate." It would allow religious-based discrimination against LGBT people, potentially limiting not just marriage but adoption, counseling and employment.

All of which means that those who thought gay marriage and attacks on LGBT rights would be a dead issue come election time, or that the GOP had finally gotten the message, were wrong. Ken Cuccinelli may have gone to the political graveyard, but his spirit lives on.

Chris Gentilviso   |   February 13, 2014    9:32 AM ET

After being ensnared by a series of plagiarism accusations last year, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is facing a new claim over his lawsuit against President Barack Obama and the NSA.

In a Wednesday Washington Post column, Dana Milbank draws attention to the fact that a key name was missing from the class-action lawsuit filed by Paul: former Reagan Administration lawyer Bruce Fein, who had been working with the senator since December.

When lining up a Jan. 15 Fein draft with Wednesday's lawsuit, the Post found the documents to be almost entirely similar, along with the insertion of a new lead counsel: former Virginia Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli (R). According to the Post, Fein's camp was "aghast and shocked" over the change.

“Ken Cuccinelli stole the suit,” Fein's ex-wife and spokesperson, Maddie Fein, told the Post, throwing in that Paul, who “already has one plagiarism issue, now has a lawyer who just takes another lawyer’s work product.”

Cuccinelli responded to the Post, saying after the Wednesday news conference announcing the suit that Fein would "be brought in later.” In a statement released on Paul's website, Cuccinelli added that he was "excited" to be lead counsel in an effort to "protect a cornerstone of the Constitution."

Back in November, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow unearthed evidence suggesting Paul lifted material from the Wikipedia page for the 1997 film "Gattaca" for a speech during Cuccinelli's gubernatorial campaign.

"What makes me mad about the whole thing is that I believe there is a difference between errors of omission and errors of intention," Paul told the National Review in November. "We aren’t perfect and we have made errors of omission, but we never intended to mislead anybody."

UPDATE (12:05 p.m. ET) -- The following statement was provided to Paul's office from Bruce Fein:

"Mattie Lolavar was not speaking for me. Her quotes were her own and did not represent my views. I was working on a legal team, and have been paid for my work."

Mollie Reilly   |   January 21, 2014    7:38 PM ET

During a Tuesday appearance on CNN's "Crossfire," former Virginia attorney general and gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli (R) said New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie should step down from his post as chair of the Republican Governors Association amid the so-called Bridgegate scandal.

When asked by cohost Van Jones if it's "fair" for Christie to remain chairman while a federal investigation is underway, Cuccinelli suggested the Republican governor is distracting from the party's goals in a key election year.

"I think just from the perspective of setting aside this as an issue in other races, it makes sense for him to step aside in that role," Cuccinelli said. "He does not serve the goals of that organization by staying as chairman. That doesn't mean any of the charges, political or otherwise, are substantive or not. It doesn't matter, perception is reality."

Watch Cuccinelli's remarks above.

Christie is currently embroiled in a growing scandal surrounding his aides' decision to close access lanes to the George Washington Bridge as apparent payback for a Democratic mayor who declined to endorse Christie during his reelection bid. The scandal has been further complicated by Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer's claims that Christie's administration threatened to withhold recovery aid after Superstorm Sandy if she did not support a lucrative real estate development.

Cuccinelli's remarks may be his own small-scale form of political retribution.

Back in November, NBC's Chuck Todd reported that Christie had declined to campaign with the tea party-backed Cuccinelli:

I heard from one Republican source who said, "Where was Chris Christie?" In fact, saying that they made an effort -- apparently some senior conservative Republicans reached out to Christie and asked him to come down to Virginia and campaign for Cuccinelli and Christie said no. So, it's -- that's sort of the way you feel this is going to play's a lot closer than Republicans thought. A lot of Cuccinelli supporters are a little bit bitter right now looking at the result, thinking, "What if?"

Cuccinelli was narrowly defeated in the 2013 race by former Democratic National Committee chair Terry McAuliffe.

In Virginia, the Power of Showing Up

Michael Keegan   |   January 15, 2014   10:33 AM ET

In elections, it doesn't just matter who wins. It also matters how they win: who shows up to vote and why.

We're seeing this yet again in Virginia this week, as Terry McAuliffe kicks off his first term as governor. On his first full day in office Monday, McAuliffe got started on the agenda of progressive reform that he told voters he stood for -- including expanding LGBT rights and access to reproductive care, and expanding health care coverage.

He also emphasized a push for Virginia's version of the DREAM Act, which would allow undocumented students to pay in-state tuition at the state's public colleges and universities. That measure has bipartisan support, but was stalled last year by Republicans in the state legislature. McAuliffe's stance on immigration issues was one of the key things separating him from Republican candidate Ken Cuccinelli -- and contributed to his critical victory among Latino voters.

Exit polls in 2013 made clear that Latino voters -- and a lot of other Virginians to boot -- were turned off by the GOP's chilling anti-immigrant rhetoric and opposition to common-sense immigration policies.

A Latino Decisions election-eve poll in Virginia last year, which we sponsored along with America's Voice, found that more than half of Latino voters named immigration and the DREAM Act as the most important issues that politicians need to address. Jobs and the economy, education, and health care also ranked highly. And just as importantly, Republican candidate Ken Cuccinelli's demeaning remarks about immigrants severely damaged him in the eyes of Latino and Asian American voters. In the end, Virginia's Latino voters favored McAulliffe by a whopping 37 percentage points.

And it's not just immigration. In his speech on Monday, McAulliffe also repeated his intention to push for expanded Medicaid coverage in Virginia, which would provide health coverage to 400,000 uninsured people in the state - a measure that McAulliffe's Republican predecessor Bob McDonnell refused to take.

Republicans are learning the hard way that anti-immigrant extremism is not what American voters want. They are also learning the hard way that America's growing number of Latino voters are not going to sit back and let Republican politicians insult and scapegoat them.

The RNC Wrote A 100-Page Autopsy, But Apparently Nobody Read It

Jason Linkins   |   December 30, 2013    5:06 PM ET

Earlier this year, the Republican National Committee put together a team of experts to pore over what lessons there were to learn from the GOP's electoral defeats in 2012. Together, they compiled what is officially termed the "Growth And Opportunity Project," but what has become colloquially known -- due to its thanatological study of the corpse of Mitt Romney's campaign -- as the "RNC autopsy." Call it what you like, the RNC insisted that it was "the most comprehensive post-election review" ever undertaken, and at 100 pages, we're not inclined to quibble.

Over the course of those 100 pages, the report’s authors offered up a number of urgent “bottom line” thoughts on the state of the party after 2012. One of the most firmly stated admonitions cautioned against insular thinking: “The Republican Party has to stop talking to itself.”

Indeed, that’s solid advice for anyone who’s been long trapped in the bubble of “This Town.” But the question, one year on from the publication of this report, is whether or not the Republican Party has started listening to its own advice.

Those who produced the after-action report definitely took a soup-to-nuts approach, devoting their energies to matters both philosophical and practical. The RNC got deep into the weeds on how to operate better in the modern campaign finance environment, took on the tremendous deficits the party endured in terms of campaign technology, and made a critical dissection of the party's entire primary process. There was also tremendous emphasis on reaching out to demographic groups that have lately found it all too easy to spurn the GOP's advances.

Now that we've reached the end of the first post-autopsy year, however, it may be worth it to take a look back and see how the Republican Party is doing, following the strictures set down in the "Growth And Opportunity Project." Let's just pull one especially urgent-sounding order out of the autopsy, totally at random, shall we?

As stated above, we are not a policy committee, but among the steps Republicans take in the Hispanic community and beyond we must embrace and champion comprehensive immigration reform. If we do not, our Party’s appeal will continue to shrink to its core constituencies only. We also believe that comprehensive immigration reform is consistent with Republican economic policies that promote job growth and opportunity for all.

Oh, hey, whoops, I guess?

Here's a fun fact: Florida Sen. Marco Rubio was, at one point, thought of as a top prospect for a 2016 run. The RNC autopsy, in fact, quotes him as a wise elder high up in the report: “What people who are struggling want more than anything is a chance -- a chance to make it in life.” After a year of suiting up in a flak jacket to confront right-wing radio talkers who opposed Rubio and his "Gang Of Eight" on immigration reform, it's Rubio whose chances are diminished. Remember how Texas Gov. Rick Perry made an impassioned case for treating immigrants humanely, based on years of practical experience as a border state governor, only to get repeatedly kicked in the teeth for it? History repeats itself.

As we come to the end of the year, the future of comprehensive immigration reform looks as uncertain as ever. House Republican leadership continues to sit on the comprehensive bill passed by the Senate, and while Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is suggesting that House Speaker John Boehner is close to caving, all the chit-chat out of Boehner's camp is indicating that he'll likely stand pat against anything other than a piecemeal approach. Meanwhile, this year's thorn in Boehner's side, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, is urging his fellow Republicans to block any immigration reform efforts.

Cruz, who's criticized his fellow Republicans for training "cannon fire" at one another even as he's kept his own howitzers warm, has been a one-man wrecking ball against the efforts of the RNC's "Growth And Opportunity Project." Even as he's served as the vice chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, he's raised the profile of the Senate Conservatives Fund and used that perch to harangue his colleagues for what he's perceived as a lack of purity. He hasn't even endorsed Texas Sen. John Cornyn, the head of the NRSC, who's facing a primary in Cruz's home state!

This isn't what the RNC wanted after 2012. The "Growth And Opportunity" report goes on at great length about the need for the RNC and its "Friends And Allies" (by which the report means right-aligned third-party groups) to forge a more positive working alliance. "The RNC is the only entity that can effectively lead on issues and messaging," says the report.

Those "Friends And Allies" didn't get the message. All year, outside groups like Heritage Action and Club for Growth have laid down their own law in terms of messaging, leading the GOP into one morass after another. Things finally came to a head in mid-December, when Boehner -- hoping to shepherd through the budget deal wrought by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R) and Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D) -- finally hit the roof.

It's hard to fault Boehner for his reaction. As HuffPost's Sabrina Siddiqui reported, "Heritage Action and Americans for Prosperity stated their opposition to the Murray-Ryan budget deal before it was even announced, while Club for Growth urged members to vote against it moments after the deal was made public." That flew in the face of one of the RNC's big recommendations: "Republican organizations need to understand that all of this will work better if they will all participate in these discussions and play their respective roles." At the end of 2013, it's pretty clear that this spirit of participation and discussion has failed to take root.

Of course, it would be inaccurate to suggest that the GOP hasn't made some not-insubstantial progress in righting the ship. As CNN's Peter Hamby reported, the RNC has an entirely new vision for the primary process that includes fewer debates, a more tightly disciplined state primary process and an early convention to help save its future presidential candidate from operating at a financial disadvantage. After the wretched excesses of the 2012 primaries, these are reforms worth welcoming. Though the law of unintended consequences still applies: Will the new process limit the effectiveness of grassroots-driven campaigns like the one Ron Paul ran in 2012? Will there still be enough debates for a low-budget candidate, like Rick Santorum, to have a puncher's chance at the nomination?

And when a nominee is crowned, will the candidate benefit from cutting-edge campaign mechanics? That was one of the RNC's under-sung goals in developing this post-2012 plan -- the need to build a smarter, data-driven, reality-based campaign with top-flight digital infrastructure. Around the same time the RNC was putting its report together, The New York Times' Robert Draper was making the rounds of disaffected GOP campaign technologists and pointing out how downright surreal it was to ponder the sort of talent that the Republican Party left on the sidelines in 2012.

How is the progress on that front? As Real Clear Politics' Adam O'Neal reported last week, progress is being made, but the GOP is still essentially "playing catch-up." The lag was especially prominent in this year's Virginia gubernatorial race:

DNC spokesman Mike Czin told RealClearPolitics that though he has “no doubt that Republicans are making investments and really spending time trying to figure out how to do this,” they are still lagging behind.

Czin pointed to the Virginia gubernatorial race as proof that GOP investments in this effort have not yet paid off. A few weeks before the election, Republican Ken Cuccinelli’s campaign sent out an e-mail asking those interested in volunteering to reach out again because “sometimes things fall through the cracks.”

“That tells me that whatever investments they’re making weren’t being used by the biggest targeted, competitive race of the year,” Czin said of the contest won by Democrat Terry McAuliffe.

Of course, the race for Virginia's statehouse cast more of the problems cited in the GOP autopsy in sharp relief. After all, the Republicans ended up with a pair of radical weirdos -- Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and conservative pastor E.W. Jackson -- on the top of their ticket. Both of those guys became the GOP's standardbearers in Virginia as a result of the state party's decision to make their nominations at a state convention instead of through a primary -- something that the autopsy specifically warned against: "It would be a mistake to circumvent voters and hand-pick our nominees ... voters when given choices will pick better candidates."

If we can linger a little longer in the Commonwealth of Virginia and on its governor's race, which the GOP surmised was an eminently winnable thing given the quality of the Democratic candidate, you can see multiple examples of urgings from the autopsy that went unheeded:

Already, there is a generational difference within the conservative movement about issues involving the treatment and the rights of gays -- and for many younger voters, these issues are a gateway into whether the Party is a place they want to be.
Women are not a “coalition.” They represent more than half the voting population in the country, and our inability to win their votes is losing us elections.

So yeah, maybe the fact that the Republicans' high-profile candidate in Virginia championed transvaginal ultrasounds and the criminalization of sodomy should be seen as something of a setback.

Efforts are being made to improve the GOP's standing with a lot of demographic groups that have shunned Republicans of late. We've learned, for example, that aides to GOP incumbents are getting trained on how to speak to women. It's not clear that this necessarily involves eliminating from their collective unconsciousness the sort of weird beliefs that caused Missouri Rep. Todd Akin's Senate ambitions to founder or just becoming savvy enough to never enunciate those beliefs out loud, but it is, one supposes, a start.

Or if you prefer, a start among fits. After all, it was the RNC that declared racism to be over in a tweet commemorating Rosa Parks this year, despite the autopsy's admonition that the Republican Party needed to do more to engage with the African-American community in a manner that spoke to a "mutual respect." It would also help if the GOP would curtail some of its more flamboyant efforts to keep the African-American community from voting. A lonely Wisconsin Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner might lead the way on that, if his party would let him.

The RNC's report also rather forcefully called for a populist retrenchment: "We should speak out when a company liquidates itself and its executives receive bonuses but rank-and-file workers are left unemployed. We should speak out when CEOs receive tens of millions of dollars in retirement packages but middle-class workers have not had a meaningful raise in years." One might scoff at that a little louder were it not for the fact that well-heeled Democratic groups like Third Way have lately urged their party to kick the middle class to the curb.

Overall, these Republican outreach efforts remain a work in progress, and the ironic thing is that 2014's political realities may leave it so for the near future. After all, as dire as this report was in characterizing the deficits that undercut the GOP's 2012 efforts, the Republicans are nevertheless in healthy shape, fundamentally speaking, going into the 2014 midterms. Post-Census redistricting and the tendency of Democratic voters to congeal in large populations in urban districts, combined with the Democratic Party's traditional troubles in turning out the vote in midterm elections, make the possibility of a "wave" election that would undo right-wing hegemony in the House of Representatives extremely remote, and it will take a substantial effort just for the Democrats to maintain a slim majority in the Senate.

As the Democrats' 2014 message starts to take shape, it's hard to see anything in the offing that might catalyze a shift in these fundamentals. Right now, the White House and its Democratic allies are banking on Obamacare functioning as planned come the fall of 2014. It's an open question whether or not it will, but at this point, they're all-in on their Obamacare wagers. Should they pay off, Democrats will look back at 2013 -- the bungled rollout, President Barack Obama's poll numbers -- as simply "paying the cost to be the boss."

Elsewhere, Democrats are whistling about an approaching dawn in America's economic conditions, in the hopes that they might get credit for something that ends up feeling, authentically, like being out of the woods. It's something to hope for, but as they say, hope is not a plan. If you cast your mind back to the last time anyone spoke of a "Recovery Summer," it was ahead of the 2010 midterms. How did those work out again?

All of which is to say that, for the moment, the Republican Party doesn't even need to heed the recommendations of the RNC report. As noted above, Ted Cruz is essentially characterizing the effort to mitigate the problems of 2012 as something that would squander the tremendous opportunities the GOP might reap next year.

The question, of course, is whether or not running the sort of ideological campaign that Cruz might prefer in the midterms would make it harder to win in 2016, when the fundamentals of the Electoral College arguably flip in favor of the Democrats. One of the costs of tea party domination in 2010 was that by the time the presidential cycle had rolled around again, the GOP's brand was so far to the right that many of the party's most talented candidates stayed out of the game, rather than get mixed up in their party's extravagant extremes. That's a factor that the RNC did fail to grapple with in its "autopsy." It remains the largest potential reason that Republicans may have cause to pen another one. Which won't need to be heeded either.

[Would you like to follow me on Twitter? Because why not?]

Republican Senate Candidates Train To Improve Pitch To Women Voters

Jon Ward   |   December 10, 2013    5:33 PM ET

WASHINGTON -- Republican House of Representatives candidates aren't the only ones training to better communicate with women voters. GOP candidates for Senate are being put through their paces as well, The Huffington Post has learned.

But the National Republican Senatorial Committee and GOP consultants working to close the party's gender gap emphasized that talking to women is just one part of an intensive candidate training program.

"We do not like the phrase women's issues, because we think all issues are women's issues," said Katie Packer Gage, a veteran Republican operative who conducted a training session for Senate candidates at the National Republican Senatorial Committee's candidate school.

Gage, who was deputy campaign manager for Mitt Romney's presidential run last year, started a new firm this year aimed specifically at helping Republicans overcome their foot-in-mouth disease on issues of particular interest to women. She said the session she and fellow consultant Ashley O'Connor conducted for the National Republican Senatorial Committee was "focused on how to talk about the Republican philosophy of limited government and talk about it in a way that women will respond to."

"One of the things we talk about is the fact that if we were the party that had been responsible for more women living in poverty, and women losing health care when they were promised they could keep it, we'd probably only want to talk about abortion too," Gage said. "We think there are lots of issues women care about."

More sessions are planned for next year, Gage said.

National Republican Senatorial Committee communications director Brad Dayspring emphasized that the session conducted by Gage and O'Connor was part of a larger candidate training effort that the committee's executive director, Rob Collins, has made a priority for the 2014 election cycle.

"The NRSC has put an emphasis on candidate (and campaign) training and thus far have held two intensive candidate sessions and more than 20 different sessions for campaign staff (both in Washington and battleground states)," Dayspring wrote in an email. "Topics ranged from policy briefings to media training, legal briefings to digital training, finance planning to best practices.

"It is important for candidates to learn what worked in successful campaigns and to prepare for the vicious attacks that will be thrown their way," Dayspring wrote.

It's also important to learn from past mistakes, Dayspring admitted. And the GOP has a plethora of examples to choose from. Iowa Republican Senate candidate Mark Jacobs was in the news on Monday when he said that candidates need to "connect with women on an emotional level" more so than with men. Virginia's new governor-elect, Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, defeated Republican Ken Cuccinelli in November with the help of a 9-point advantage among women voters, after ads hammering Cuccinelli's views on abortion.

And President Barack Obama won women by 11 points in the 2012 presidential election, a cycle in which the GOP's relationship with women was harmed by Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin, who said pregnancies caused by rape are "really rare" because "if it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut the whole thing down.”

Dayspring himself has come under criticism recently for his own gender-colored comment, when he called Kentucky Democratic Senate candidate Alison Lundergran Grimes an "empty dress."

Gage pointed to Cuccinelli's failed gubernatorial effort in Virginia this year as Exhibit A of what not to do.

Cuccinelli knew he would come under attack from his Democratic opponent for his adamant anti-abortion stance, as well as for some of his rhetoric on the issue, and so his first TV ad of the campaign, back in the spring, featured his wife.

Wrong move, Gage said. Too predictable. Too one-dimensional. In essence, Cuccinelli used a paint-by-numbers approach that didn't think about women voters holistically, but rather as an interest group, she said.

"That's the problem we have," Gage said. "The minute we want to talk about women, you want to trot out your wife, assemble a women for Cuccinelli group. That's not what women care about."

Instead, Gage said, the Cuccinelli campaign should have led off with the ad it waited to run until September, highlighting how Cuccinelli went out of his way to free a black man who had been in prison for 27 years for rapes he did not commit.

"It says he cares about people that aren't like him. Women would respond to that ad," Gage said.

"Women don't sit there with a ledger keeping track of all of a candidate's positions. They take a measure of the candidate. They want to know that the candidate is a strong candidate and that he or she cares about people," Gage said. "Ken Cuccinelli came across as someone who was a big mean bully. I think that was more off-putting than any specific messaging about reproductive rights."

Besides the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Gage's firm has been conducting sessions and talking with candidates and operatives at the federal, state and local level, she said.

"There certainly seems to be a need for our services," Gage joked. But she and her firm, Burning Glass Consulting, have not worked with House candidates through the National Republican Congressional Committee, she said.

"That wasn't us. If it was us, we wouldn't have been that clumsy about it," she said of the story leaking out to Politico. "I don't even know how that got out, but the way it did, it seemed like you were feeding your opponents a story."

Andrew Cain   |   December 9, 2013    5:27 PM ET

Ken Cuccinelli, who lost the race for governor, says he will not take on U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner, D-Va., in 2014.

The attorney general, who previously said he would not rule out a run and found the idea tempting, disclosed the news Saturday night in an unannounced speech to Republican activists in Hot Springs.

"I don't mind not having an elected role in about a month or so," Cuccinelli said, according to a Politico report. "I've been in office 11 years," the former state senator added.

"I look forward to a little bit of a break ... but I'll be back with you. I'm not talking as a candidate, but just fighting for those principles because I believe in them."

Many GOP activists and reporters had left the annual gathering ahead of Sunday's ice storm, according to Politico. Texas Gov. Rick Perry had canceled his appearance at the dinner and stayed home after declaring a weather-related state of emergency.

Cuccinelli again said his stand against the federal health care law helped him close the gap with Democrat Terry McAuliffe, who prevailed by 2.5 percentage points.

He said Warner must answer for his support of "Obamacare." Cuccinelli previously criticized the Democrat for saying he would not have voted for a health care law that would not let people keep insurance plans they liked.

Millions of Americans who buy insurance as individuals and not through work have had their plans canceled because they do not comply with the law's requirements.

"He lied to Virginians and they're going to be reminded of that for 11 months," Cuccinelli said during his speech at the Homestead resort.

"And by the way, just so you're clear, I'm not running against Mark Warner. I'm making a point."

Gov. Bob McDonnell, who awaits the outcome of federal and state investigations, also has ruled out a run.

State Sen. Jeffrey L. McWaters, R-Virginia Beach, says he is considering a run. Former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie of McLean has also been mentioned as a possibility.

Two little-known Republicans from Northern Virginia have announced. They are Shak Hill, a financial planner and decorated combat pilot, and Howie Lind, a former Navy officer.

If a recount upholds Democrat Mark Herring's narrow win for attorney general, Republicans will hold none of Virginia's five statewide offices for the first time since 1969.

In a luncheon speech to the annual GOP gathering Saturday, U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-7th, told activists that finger-pointing, blame and resentment don't help the party.

"When our party is not united and when we fail to offer a plan that connects with people and the problems they're having, we lose at the ballot box," Cantor said.

In his surprise dinner speech, Cuccinelli then blamed Republicans who did not support him financially down the stretch, when he lacked the money for TV ads in the expensive Washington-area market.

Politico said Cuccinelli fought back tears during the speech. It said he told of a conversation with his finance chairman, Pete Snyder, late in the race.

"I said, 'This wave's really happening. We've just got to raise enough money to buy a surfboard.'

"And we didn't." ___

Amazing Grace: A Survivor's Story

D. R. Tucker   |   November 26, 2013    8:55 PM ET

Michael Mann's The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines now out in paperback, is one of the best thrillers you will ever read.

There 's no blood or violence, but this outstanding work is an engaging "true crime" tale -- the crime in question being the unrelenting harassment of Mann after his research on human-caused climate change became a central part of the political discussion on the issue in the late-1990s.

Shortly after his research -- which featured an iconic graph showing a dramatic spike in worldwide temperatures in the last 150 years, a spike that came to be known as the "hockey stick" -- was published, Mann became the target of a coordinated effort by various fossil-fuel-industry front groups, many of which were connected to right-wing denialist billionaires Richard Mellon Scaife and David and Charles Koch -- to discredit his research. Political and legal assaults on Mann were launched by Texas Rep. Joe Barton (R) in 2005 and Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II (R) in 2010. In addition, Mann was smeared in right-wing media outlets after his emails were stolen from a server at the University of East Anglia and his writings on science were taken out of context in 2009. Mann was the recipient of relentless death threats and false allegations of academic and scientific fraud. Even after the integrity of his research was upheld repeatedly, representatives of the fossil fuel industry continued to bash him.

The descriptions of the extent to which Big Oil wanted to bury Mann are heartbreaking, terrifying, revolting. Describing the effort by the fossil-fueled right-wing to brand him a fraud after the University of East Anglia theft, Mann notes:

One front of the attack involved the sending of voluminous e-mail and phone messages containing thinly veiled threats of harm against me and my family. "You and your colleagues who have promoted this scandal ought to be shot, quartered and fed to the pigs along with your whole damn families," read one e-mail. Another read, "You should know the public will come after you," and "Six feet under, with the roots is were [sic] you should be doin [sic] your magic, how come know [sic] one has [edited] you yet, I was hopin [sic] I would see the news and you commited [sic] suicide."

Yet despite nearly fifteen years of psychological torture at the hands of those who see a financial threat in his research, Mann remains strong as ever, courageous as ever, unbought and unbossed. Mann has a survivor's spirit, one that allows him to keep going even after unhinged bloggers and fill-in talk radio hosts continue to scandalize his name.

Martin Luther King Jr. once talked of a "long and bitter, but beautiful, struggle for a new world." Mann's book is about a long and bitter, but equally beautiful, struggle for a cleaner and healthier world, one not contaminated by the moral scourge of carbon pollution. Mann's book ends on a positive note, noting the rise of a climate movement that is gaining the political influence necessary to challenge the fossil-fueled forces of distortion and denial.

Tennessee Williams once observed that "high station in life is earned by the gallantry with which appalling experiences are survived with grace." That's the story of Dr. Mann's life. He has survived the appalling experiences of the past decade and a half with amazing grace.

I don't know how Dr. Mann does it. I don't know how someone can survive such brutality and still be such a calm soul, filled with hope that the climate crisis can be resolved. He's a better man than I am, because if I had been the target of these grotesque assaults, I would shake with contempt for every last one of my persecutors. Had I gone through this experience, I would not have titled my book The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars. I would have titled it Not Ready to Make Nice.

The theft of the University of East Anglia emails (which remains unsolved), and the dishonesty of the right-wing media entities that exploited the theft, are covered in this 2011 video by Peter Sinclair of

Immigration Reform Is Delayed, Not Defeated

  |   November 16, 2013   12:22 PM ET

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Markus Schmidt   |   November 14, 2013    5:23 PM ET

Democrat Mark Herring and Republican Mark Obenshain, locked in a razor-thin contest for attorney general, on Wednesday both named transition teams.

The State Board of Elections updated the count to reflect provisional ballots from Fairfax County. Herring now leads by 164 votes out of more than 2.2 million cast.

Herring had declared victory late Tuesday night, saying "voters in Virginia have spoken." At a news conference in Richmond on Wednesday, Obenshain termed Herring's declaration "bravado" and said the Democrat should resign from his state Senate seat if he is so confident.

Obenshain said talk of a recount is premature, pending the Nov. 25 vote certification by the State Board of Elections.

Obenshain also said he is not

concerned about conflict of interest questions Democrats are raising because Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is calling on supporters to help fund Obenshain's potential recount. Cuccinelli's office advises and counsels state agencies -- including the elections board, which would be in charge of a recount.

State Sen. A. Donald McEachin, D-Henrico, on Wednesday called on Cuccinelli to "stop tainting the electoral process and to refrain from fundraising for Senator Obenshain."

Cuccinelli has a critical role to play to help ensure Virginians have confidence in the outcome, McEachin said in a statement.

"Attorney General Cuccinelli needs to take his responsibilities seriously in this process and refrain from his overt and extreme partisanship," he said.

Obenshain said the attorney general is bound by ethics.

"I am confident that the attorney general and his office will do a good job at making sure that the rules are fairly and impartially applied and that the legal advice ... is based on the law," he said.

Herring, a state senator from Loudoun County, said in a statement that "transitions are about new beginnings, and this transition will be a return to fundamentals. We will get back to putting ideology and partisanship aside, and putting the law and Virginians first."

The five co-chairs of Herring's transition team are:

--Gabriel Morgan, sheriff of Newport News;

--Anne Holton of Richmond, wife of Sen. Timothy M. Kaine, former Virginia first lady, former Richmond juvenile and domestic relations district court judge;

--Michael Doucette, commonwealth's attorney of Lynchburg;

--Jeffrey Novak of Prince William County, national director of state public policy and assistant general counsel at AOL and a member of the Northern Virginia Technology Council; and

--Shannon Taylor, Henrico County commonwealth's attorney.

Herring said David Hallock, deputy chief of staff and legislative director for Sen. Mark R. Warner, would lead his transition.

Obenshain, a state senator from Harrisonburg, said "the responsible thing to do is to prepare for a potential transition" "given the 'historically narrow margin.'"

He announced that his transition co-chairs are:

--former Chief Deputy Attorney General Chuck James;

--Jerry W. Kilgore, a Republican who served as attorney general from 2002 to 2005;

--Andy Miller, a Democrat who served as attorney general from 1970 to 1977; and

--Lisa Caruso, Dinwiddie County commonwealth's attorney.

If Herring prevails, come January Democrats will hold all five of Virginia's statewide offices -- two U.S. Senate seats, governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general -- for the first time since 1969. Herring would be the first Democrat elected attorney general since 1989, when Mary Sue Terry won a second four-year term.

According to the State Board of Elections, Herring has 1,103,777 votes, or 49.89 percent. Obenshain has 1,103,613 votes, or 49.88 percent. There were 4,926 write- in votes in the election.

Herring leads by 0.01 percentage point. A candidate who loses by less than a half of 1 percent can ask for a recount paid by taxpayers. A candidate who loses by between 0.5 and 1 percent must pay for a recount. Obenshain and Herring continue asking supporters for donations.

In a recount, elections officials check and re-add vote totals taken from voting machine records. 649-6537Twitter: @MSchmidtRTD

Politics Editor Andrew Cain contributed to this report. ___

Is This the End of the Republican Party?

  |   November 14, 2013   11:11 AM ET

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Paige Lavender   |   November 14, 2013   10:14 AM ET

House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) dealt a blow to such GOP presidential hopefuls as Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) during an appearance on MSNBC Thursday.

"I'm a firm believer that I don't think anyone should become president if they haven’t been a governor first," McCarthy told Chuck Todd on "The Daily Rundown."

Rubio, Cruz and Ryan don't meet that standard, unlike other GOP presidential contenders, like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. Someone else who didn't meet that standard: President Abraham Lincoln.

"The challenge in Washington is the ability to work together," McCarthy said, noting experience as a governor could help while serving as commander-in-chief.

McCarthy also touched on Republican Ken Cuccinelli's loss to Terry McAuliffe in the Virginia gubernatorial race. When asked if the government shutdown had an effect on the race's outcome, McCarthy said Republicans aren't at fault for the shutdown, despite their push to defund the government over Obamacare.

"Republicans don't owe somebody an apology for fighting our principles and beliefs," McCarthy said.

Did the Republicans Lose Women in the 2013 Elections?

  |   November 12, 2013    3:14 PM ET

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