NARAL Pro-Choice America

Shortcut Navigation:

Get Email Updates


Donate to NARAL Pro-Choice America Now

Your gift will help us protect choice at all levels.

Donate Now


November 4, 2013

NARAL Pro-Choice America's 2013 Virginia Gubernatorial Election Memo

Ken Cuccinelli the canary in the coal mine for anti-choice candidates heading into 2014

It is often said that off-year elections like this race in Virginia are an early indicator of trouble for a party heading into the congressional cycle. As the factions of the Republican party, both at the federal and state levels, proactively pursue an extreme anti-choice and anti-women agenda, the governor’s race in Virginia could be their canary in the coal mine as they look ahead to 2014.

Since the majority of Americans hold pro-choice values, anti-choice politicians like Virginia gubernatorial hopeful Ken Cuccinelli have tried to shy away from or mislead voters about their track record of attacking women’s reproductive freedom. In a report commissioned with American Bridge, NARAL Pro-Choice America caught anti-choice groups, like the Susan B. Anthony List, pouring money into Ken Cuccinelli’s campaign under the guise of a grassroots outreach program, Women for Ken.

As all eyes fall on this year’s most hotly-contested election, the outcome of Ken Cuccinelli’s campaign may serve as a cautionary tale of what’s to come for future anti-choice candidates: voters will hold you accountable on Election Day.

Recognizing that pro-choice values could  in this election, NARAL Pro-Choice America:

  • In June, led an aggressive, targeted campaign based on polling conducted by Greenberg Quinlan and Rosner Research (GQRR). Our messaging regarding Ken Cuccinelli’s misplaced priority of pursuing limitations on reproductive freedom over concern for jobs and the economy tested strongly and was an underpinning of each message we sent to pro-choice, drop-off women voters in Virginia.
  • Partnered with its affiliate in Virginia to reach 30,000 targeted voters in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads through mail, online advertising, canvassing and phone-banking to ensure that our key messages were delivered and reinforced throughout the campaign.
  • Created innovative online ads to reach a key group of voters through smart targeting – not previously done in Virginia - on their mobile devices with the right message at the right moment in the campaign.

While pro-choice messages that reinforce Ken Cuccinelli’s misplaced priorities have resonated throughout this campaign, being anti-choice and proactively ramming through policies that endanger women’s health and limit economic freedom is a damaging platform for the Republican party. And in this race, the facts are clear and undisputable: Virginia voters, like the majority of voters across this country, reject the extreme agenda of the current Republican party when it comes to issues that affect women. Ignoring these facts going forward amounts to a costly political miscalculation.

Despite their party’s obvious problem with women voters, many Republicans will try to dismiss this as an isolated race or a bad candidate. Yet, high-profile defeats in 2012 of anti-choice candidates like Todd Akin (R-MO) and Richard Mourdock (R-IN) tell a different story: candidates held accountable for their anti-choice agenda on the campaign trail can be solidly defeated. Conversely, candidates who embrace pro-choice values like Virginia gubernatorial hopeful, Terry McAuliffe, will connect with voters who value leadership that addresses the real needs and priorities of women and families across America.

As we consider races underway for 2014, NARAL Pro-Choice America, working with our affiliates and allies, will look to expand our highly successful political program to make sure that voters are keenly aware of the consequences of electing anti-choice politicians: They are both out-of-touch with real women and families and consistently sacrifice our priorities to pursue their dangerous agenda.

Our Program: Motivated by Ken Cuccinelli’s extreme policy positions and record in public office as well as Terry McAuliffe’s strong and repeated championing of a women’s right to make her own health choices, NARAL Pro-Choice America, working in partnership with our affiliate NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia developed and executed a targeted political program over the last six months to ensure McAuliffe’s victory.

Below is a brief outline of the work NARAL Pro-Choice America, working in partnership with NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia, did in the Virginia gubernatorial race.

We believe these efforts, along with those of our allies, have contributed to the massive gender gap in polling leading into Election Day. We also believe this work, scaled to the national level, has the potential to make a similar impact in the 2014 election cycle and beyond.

Demonstrating the Power of Choice and Finding the Strongest Message

In June, NARAL Pro-Choice America and NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia commissioned GQRR to conduct a statewide poll of 600 pro-choice, drop-off women voters to test the most salient messages on Ken Cuccinelli’s anti-choice record. Overwhelmingly, our sample responded to our priorities message: Ken Cuccinelli should be focusing on Virginia’s jobs and economy, not limiting reproductive freedom for women.

Targeting Voters with Our Tested Message

NARAL Pro-Choice America, in coordination with allies, developed and deployed a six-piece mail program targeting more than 30,000 voters in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads. Voters in the targeted universe received multiple pieces of mail with our tested messages that painted Cuccinelli as extreme and out-of-touch with the real priorities of Virginia voters. 

Creative Online Ads and Smart Targeting

After studying the media landscape and determining that many of the persuadable voters in our targeted universe consume more news and information online and on their mobile device than anywhere else, NARAL Pro-Choice America developed an innovative and persuasive online ad campaign.

The online ads highlighted Cuccinelli’s extreme record on a woman’s right to choose by depicting him as an intrusive “cardboard Ken” Cuccinelli figure in a woman’s bedroom and even at the pharmacy. The spots underscore Cuccinelli’s belief that elected officials belong in the private spaces and decisions of women and families across the Commonwealth.

These ads targeted pro-choice, drop-off women voters across the state. They also targeted women using mobile devices by employing innovative multi-screen digital advertising that penetrated thousands of web properties, including desktop and laptop browsers, tablets and smartphones.

Meeting Pro-Choice Voters at Their Doors

While ads and polling are useful tools, elections are still won with an effective ground game. That is why NARAL Pro-Choice America, in partnership with its Virginia affiliate, ran an aggressive canvass operation in both outer Northern Virginia (Prince William and Loudoun counties) and the Hampton Roads areas. Working with allies, our volunteers knocked on more than 15,000 doors. The areas selected for the canvassing received information about what’s at stake for women and families in this election.

Leveraging the Power of Pro-Choice Student Activists

Realizing the power of young voters, NARAL Pro-Choice America’s Virginia affiliate, worked with partners to install and train organizers on five college campuses in Virginia (Christopher Newport University, James Madison University, University of Richmond, Mary Washington University and Northern Virginia Community College). On campus, these organizers canvassed, phone-banked and ran visibility campaigns through Election Day, with particular emphasis on GOTV.

Getting Every NARAL Pro-Choice America Member Out to Vote

In the final week of the campaign, NARAL Pro-Choice America, and its affiliate ran three volunteer phone banks out of their national office. Volunteer dialers contacted the organizations’ members in Virginia with a GOTV message. Additionally, the organizations had volunteer-recruited phone banks across fourteen states. As a result, the organization’s member activists across the country connected with members living in Virginia via virtual phone banks, urging them to go to the polls.


Bookmark and Share

©2017 NARAL Pro-Choice America   Copyright Information

Paid for by NARAL Pro-Choice America,, and not authorized by any candidate or candidate's committee.