The conventional wisdom coming out of Virginia's gubernatorial race last month was that the GOP can't afford to run hardcore pro-lifers like Ken Cuccinelli. Certainly, Terry McAuliffe's unflinching support for abortion helped him raise money, but how did the issue move voters?

One study suggests abortion helped Cuccinelli and hurt McAuliffe — and more discussion of McAuliffe's extreme views on abortion might have tipped the scale.

Adam Schaeffer and Nancy Smith report on experiments they conducted with Virginia voters:

What moved the voters most was an attack on McAuliffe’s positions on abortion; a single phone message emphasizing McAuliffe’s support for unrestricted, late-term, and taxpayer-funded abortions shifted support a net 13 to 15 points away from McAuliffe and toward Cuccinelli. The cost per vote here was a remarkably cheap $0.50 per additional vote, and even less expensive still when targeting the most persuadable segment of the electorate.

A topic declared radioactive by nearly everyone, locked away in secure storage behind a blazing Hazmat warning by the Cuccinelli campaign, appears to have been a powerful weapon for the Republican ticket that could have substantially closed the gap, and possibly even won Cuccinelli the election.

If the GOP establishment is as pragmatic as it claims, this ought to open a few eyes.