When it comes to the culture wars, Virginia gubernatorial hopeful Ken Cuccinelli (R) is an usually far-right candidate for statewide office, even by contemporary Republican standards. The state Attorney General has a problem with gay people, reproductive rights, climate science, the Violence Against Women Act, immigrants, and even the topless Roman goddess depicted on his state's official seal.
But with polls showing him trailing his challenger with just 10 weeks to go, Cuccinelli has no choice but to pretend to be more mainstream.
At the Ashby Ponds retirement community in Ashburn on Tuesday, Cuccinelli was asked by a woman in the audience whether, as governor, he would "support and sign personhood legislation that contains restrictions on birth control medication and birth control devices."
"I don't think government should be doing anything about birth control ... so no I would not," Cuccinelli responded. "Government legislation shouldn't address contraception."
When the woman suggested that meant he would not support personhood legislation, "because that's automatic with a personhood bill," Cuccinelli said: "If you say so, but what I'm telling you is I'm not going to touch contraception as governor, so I think you and I might disagree."
Pressed further by the local voter about "rumors" on Cuccinelli and birth-control restrictions, the candidate replied, "Actually, I wouldn't call them rumors, I might call them lies."
Funny, I'd pick a very different noun.
As the Washington Post's Ben Pershing went on to report, Cuccinelli also told reporters, "I've never supported legislation that invades people's choices about contraception."
If Cuccinelli wants to tell voters now that he no longer takes an extreme position on the issue, he's welcome to make the case and explain why he changed his mind. But when the gubernatorial hopeful says he's "never" sought to limit contraception choices, that's a problem -- because Internet search engines exist.
Cuccinelli's actual record is well documented.
In 2007, when he was a member of the Virginia Senate, Cuccinelli was co-sponsor of House Bill 2797, which would have added this line to the Virginia constitution: "That life begins at the moment of fertilization and the right to enjoyment of life guaranteed by Article 1, § 1 of the Constitution of Virginia is vested in each born and preborn human being from the moment of fertilization."
The main sponsor of this bill was Robert G. Marshall, a member of the House of Delegates from Prince William County, and in 2012, the House of Delegates approved a version of it. This bill stated that "unborn children at every stage of development enjoy all the rights, privileges, and immunities available to other persons, citizens, and residents of the Commonwealth."
At the time the House of Delegate took this action, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists denounced such "personhood" laws, warning that they could "deny women access to the full spectrum of preventive health care including contraception." In talking points that accompanied the announcement, ACOG said that "some of the most effective and reliable forms of contraception -- oral contraceptives, intrauterine devices, and other forms of FDA-approved contraceptives -- could be banned in states that adopt 'personhood' measures."
Maybe Cuccinelli forgot these details while campaigning today? Perhaps he'll eagerly correct the record later today?