CULPEPER, Va.— “Tomorrow in Virginia is a referendum on Obamacare.”
Ken Cuccinelli has tried, in the final days of his uphill race for governor, to nationalize the race. More specifically, he wants swing voters to think a vote for Terry McAuliffe is a vote for Obamacare.
In Culpeper and Warrenton -- exurbs an hour outside the Beltway -- Obamacare was the theme of Cuccinelli's rallies. The health care law consumed most of Cuccinelli's remarks in both cities and was the main focus of Sen. Marco Rubio, who was stumping with the GOP ticket. Each of the down-ticket candidates hit on it.
“This is the first election in America since the full impact of Obamacare has been felt,” Rubio told the faithful in Warrenton.
“This law — it’s greatest threat is not to health care, but to liberty.”
In both campaign stops, Cuccinelli pointed to remarks by state legislative candidate Kathleen Murphy, a Democrat, who said last week that if Obamacare drives doctors to drop Medicaid, Virginia should require doctors to accept Medicaid patients.
It’s the top issue on the minds of voters, too. Before the Culpeper rally, I asked three voters — Linda Harris, Michelle James and Alyssa Dalrymple — the most important issue in this election. All three all said Obamacare first. This was the consensus within the crowd.
How does a federal law bear on a state race?
First, much of the law’s implementation falls to state governments. Whether to expand Medicaid under Obamacare will be the next governor’s “single biggest budget decision,” Cuccinelli said.
What sort of insurance coverage Obamacare requires — and thus how costly the premiums are and how many plans get cancelled — is also determined on a state-by-state basis.
Much of this, though, is symbolic. Cuccinelli was the first state attorney general to sue to block Obamacare’s individual mandate — and he won on the lower court level before losing at the Supreme Court when Chief Justice John Roberts rewrote the individual mandate as a tax.
McAuliffe, meanwhile, is campaigning with President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden -- and he is famously close with Hillary Clinton, who in 1993 made the first run at a national health care law.
Rubio said that Obama, in campaigning for McAuliffe, “talked about a lot of things. He didn’t talk about Obamacare.”