This article originally appeared on watchdog.org.
WASHINGTON, D.C. ??? Democrats are dosing Republican Ken Cuccinelli with a ???poison pill??? in the Virginia gubernatorial race, a leading GOP strategist says.
???The Democrats are using radioactive terms to appeal to three constituencies: students, women and minorities,??? Al Cardenas, chairman of the American Conservative Union, told Watchdog.org in an exclusive interview Thursday.
???The women???s health issue is working. Every female Democrat repeats the mantra,??? Cardenas said from ACU???s Washington, D.C., office.
Polls show Cuccinelli trailing Democrat Terry McAuliffe among female voters by 12 or more points ??? a margin that is keeping the unabashedly pro-life Republican 7 to 9 points behind overall.
???I???m surprised by the margin,??? said Cardenas, whose organization hosts the widely attended national CPAC conventions.
???It looks like all the stars are lined up against Cuccinelli.???
Cardenas said the government shutdown also worked against tea party conservatives in an increasingly ???purple??? Virginia laden with federal workers.
But he???s not convinced that a middle-of-the-roader like Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling could do any better in the current environment, citing Gov. Bob McDonnell???s ongoing ???giftgate??? scandal and the governor???s tax-raising transportation package.
???The base is not energized. It just seems like the wrong cycle for the Republicans,??? Cardenas concluded.
The Cuccinelli campaign declined to comment, but South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, campaigning with the attorney general in Charlottesville, said, ???The women in Virginia will do their homework in this race. For the good of economic success in Virginia ??? women will go for Ken Cuccinelli.???
While pro-life groups such as the Susan B. Anthony List openly question McAuliffe???s sincerity on women???s issues, the Democrat has drawn political cover and financial support from Hillary Clinton. The likely 2016 presidential candidate is scheduled to appear with McAuliffe at a ???Women for Terry??? rally in Falls Church on Saturday.
Though the ACU is considered ???establishment conservative,??? Cardenas??? two terms as chairman of the Republican Party of Florida ??? the largest state political party in the country ??? and his close alliance with Jeb Bush make the media-savvy Miamian a formidable voice in the GOP.
CPAC, scheduled for March 6-8 in Washington, D.C., draws huge crowds and is considered the premiere national stage for Republicans of all stripes.
Kenric Ward is chief of Watchdog.org???s Virginia Bureau. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org