RICHMOND — Virginia is conducting a political experiment in 2013, testing whether a Tea Party favorite can carry a closely divided state with conservative roots. If Ken Cuccinelli wins the race for governor, he will have undercut Republican moderates’ claims that hard-right ideologies are hurting the party — and undoubtedly intensify a debate already roiling the GOP.
Despite its Southern conservative history, Virginia is not Kansas or Oklahoma. President Obama carried it twice after years of Republican dominance, and both US senators are Democrats. Democrats and Republicans have battled fiercely for control of the state Legislature and governorship for years, with Republicans holding the edge lately.