By Kathryn Watson | Watchdog.org, Virginia Bureau
BLACKSBURG — Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Ken Cuccinelli dodged political bullets Thursday in their final faceoff at Virginia Tech.
But it was McAuliffe who failed to satisfy debate moderator and WDBJ7 news anchor Jean Jadhon about his plans to pay for higher spending on things such as teacher pay and pre-K education.
Expanding Medicaid, McAuliffe said, would save the state millions, a claim some dispute, and continued with his talking points.
“At a time (when) we’re facing cuts from sequestration, we need to be growing and diversifying our economy, building education, not cutting education,” McAuliffe said in trying to explain how he would fund his additional spending.
“OK, Mr. McAuliffe, that will do it. I don’t know if you exactly answered what we had asked, but that’s it for that question,” Jadhon said.Download Video
Cuccinelli, who called Medicaid expansion McAuliffe’s “magical money tree,” at one point conceded 30 of his seconds to McAuliffe, saying he could use the time to explain how he would pay for his programs.
In last month’s gubernatorial debate, NBC’s Chuck Todd repeatedly asked McAuliffe how much his proposals would cost, but he couldn’t get a number.
Thursday, media didn’t have a chance to ask more about the cost issue, because McAuliffe bolted after a few press questions.
But McAuliffe wasn’t alone in dodging questions. Cuccinelli didn’t give a direct answer when asked about Libertarian Robert Sarvis — who has polled double digits in some cases — being left out of the debate.
Cuccinelli, trailing McAuliffe by up to 17 points in a recent Rasmussen poll, has the most at stake — particularly because Sarvis is pulling from people who might otherwise vote for him, according to polling.
Cuccinelli touted his libertarian credentials by mentioning Ron Paul endorsed him.
“How come the moderator didn’t cut off Cuccinelli for not answering the question about Sarvis? She seems tougher on McAuliffe,” tweeted Amy Gardner, local politics editor for the Washington Post.
All three candidates will take part in a forum noon Saturday at the Virginia War Memorial in Richmond.
— Kathryn Watson is an investigative reporter with Watchdog.org’s Virginia Bureau, and can be reached at [email protected].