Michael Barone

And his business background, which he has said will help him spur the state's economy, also has some problems. He started a firm called GreenTech, which was supposed to produce environment-friendly cars in Virginia.

Instead it built a plant in Mississippi (which it won't let reporters see), has hired only about 100 people and has produced a few hundred golf-cart-sized vehicles.

Two federal investigations are looking into the firm's financing through a program that lets rich foreign investors get visas. McAuliffe recently revealed that he resigned as CEO last December, but he's still the largest stockholder.

As for Cuccinelli, he has been in the habit of making provocative statements taking conservative stands on cultural issues.

Some of his moves have been popular, like his early lawsuit challenging Obamacare on constitutional grounds. His efforts to track down DNA evidence to absolve those wrongfully convicted of crime should be attractive to voters of all stripes.

But his strong stands on abortion could antagonize many voters in a state that has voted for the pro-abortion-rights presidential candidate in the last two elections. And he has accepted gifts from the Star Scientific CEO who lavished them on incumbent McDonnell and his family.

Both of the 2013 candidates have assets, as well. I find both of them likeable characters, though many voters may not.

Both are articulate and have lots of energy. McAuliffe is a great fundraiser, and Cuccinelli has shown he can win in the Democratic-trending Northern Virginia suburbs.

Overall this race seems likely to hinge more on personal factors than on issue stands. If so, it won't tell us much about national trends.

Michael Barone

Michael Barone, senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner (www.washingtonexaminer.com), is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and a co-author of The Almanac of American Politics. To find out more about Michael Barone, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2011 THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM