Analysts: Report Clears Cuccinelli, But 'Star' Still Could Impact Race


A state prosecutor said he has found no evidence that Cuccinelli broke the law by failing to report gifts he received from Star Scientific - a name that may sound familiar from the scandal involving current governor Bob McDonnell. And it has spilled over to the campaign to take his place.

Cuccinelli has said all along that his failure to report the gifts were unintentional. Thursday's report from a state prosecutor backs that up. But some analysts say, even though he did not do anything illegal, being so closely tied to Star Scientific could come back to hurt Cuccinelli if he cannot rid himself of the issue soon - even if the headline says he is cleared.

"It's still a negative," said Dr. Steve Longenecker, a political science professor at Bridgewater College. "I mean there's no way that Cuccinelli can win today's headline. He just needs to get this off the front page and off the plate as soon as possible.

"Any time a candidate is linked with corruption or unethical behavior, it hurts the campaign," he said.

"There may not be evidence of criminal activity, but certainly the public trust has been broken," said Brian Moran, the former chairman of the Democratic Party of Virginia. "Virginians depend and rely on their elected officials to do the right thing and to look out for their interests, not for any particular special interests or any individual donor."

But, Longenecker said, one thing benefits Cuccinelli's campaign: it is still early.

"Perhaps Cuccinelli's greatest hope is that voters will forget about this," he said. "It's July, it's the middle of the summer. People are going to the shore. And politically speaking it's still a long time till November.

The consensus: Cuccinelli needs to get back on message, and these allegations are the main thing keeping him from doing that. But some in his party say he still can - and will - recover.

"He's a very amicable guy," said Chris Saxman, a political consultant and former delegate. "He's very affable. People like him when they get to know him. He's smart. And I think as long as he engages with people on a one-on-one basis I think people are drawn to him."

Even though Cuccinelli's actions are legal, some still might see them as unethical, Longenecker said. He also said that you can expect Democrats to try to press the issue for as long as they can, including at the first debate between Cuccinelli and his opponent Terry McAuliffe on Saturday.

Moran said Saturday's debate will be a good indicator of whether or not Cuccinelli thinks his campaign is in trouble.


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