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Tone of Va's Campaign '13 consumes policy messages

Sunday - 8/11/2013, 10:50am  ET

AP Political Writer

MANASSAS, Va. (AP) -- Dirty politics is as old as Virginia itself. But an escalating practice of matching insult for insult, allegation for allegation in a season of political scandal is devouring both gubernatorial candidates' efforts to communicate policy positions.

The already sulfurous atmosphere between Republican Ken Cuccinelli and Democrat Terry McAuliffe got another infusion of acid Friday. At a forum, McAuliffe assailed Cuccinelli over gratuities from a troubled company and its chief executive. Cuccinelli called McAuliffe an "unindicted co-conspirator."

Political professionals say each candidate has settled on a strategy of impugning the other's character or trustworthiness.

Veteran Democratic consultant Mo Elleithee says both campaigns risk what he calls "mutually assured destruction," relying primarily on attacks. In a low-turnout race-to-the-bottom election, he says Cuccinelli's conservative base could give him an edge.

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