WASHINGTON -- Democrat Terry McAuliffe was always going to raise a lot of money in his bid to be governor of Virginia.
But GOP candidate Ken Cuccinelli never took fundraising as seriously as he should have, despite knowing that McAuliffe's past career as a Democratic fundraiser for the Clintons would give him an automatic leg up, according to a Republican consultant.
Cuccinelli has paid the price. McAuliffe, who has a strong lead in the polls ahead of Tuesday's election, has crushed Cuccinelli in the money race, allowing the Democrat to overwhelm the Republican on the TV airwaves. McAuliffe's $35 million campaign haul is almost double Cuccinelli's nearly $18 million.
Cuccinelli, according to an operative with knowledge of the candidate and his campaign, assumed that conservative donors and the business community would automatically give to him, unlike Gov. Bob McDonnell, a Republican, who in 2009 "went out and met with and worked hard to get the buy-in of the money crowd."
"Ken wouldn’t stoop so low. He apparently thought that they would have to come to him after he became the nominee," said the operative, who talked about internal campaign details on the condition of anonymity. "I might go so far as saying that he had a sense of entitlement about it.
"When you run a race without sufficient money, you create an environment where your opponent can say loudly in millions of TV ads that you are against birth control and you can’t do anything about it," the consultant said.
The Cuccinelli campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
Early in the summer, it was clear that Cuccinelli was having trouble obtaining support from donors who had supported McDonnell four years earlier. Cuccinelli's top campaign strategist, Chris LaCivita, made no bones about the situation: "We expect to be outraised by Terry McAuliffe," he told The Washington Post.
A Post study of campaign expenditures laid bare how badly Cuccinelli's money disadvantage has hurt him in the last month of the campaign. The Republican's TV spending dropped from just over $600,000 in the first full week of October to less than $200,000 in the final week of the month. McAuliffe's expenditures went up, from almost $900,000 in the first full week to more than $1.3 million in the final week.
Cuccinelli's biggest buy was in the week beginning Sept. 29, when he spent more than $1.2 million, compared with McAuliffe's just over $1 million.
The precipitous decline in Cuccinelli's spending raises a question: Was the Republican planning on getting financial help in the last weeks that never materialized? No, the consultant said.
"Just trying to stay alive to live another day," the operative said. "There are no good choices when you are being outspent two-to-one. None."