Robert Knight

"Too extreme for Virginia."

That's what millions of dollars' worth of Democrat campaign ads say about Republican gubernatorial nominee Ken Cuccinelli and the rest of the GOP ticket in Tuesday's off-year election.

When they're not "waging a war on women," the dastardly Republicans are kicking orphans into the snow, stealing apples from lunch boxes, pushing old people off cliffs and pausing only long enough to have wild tea parties.

This is only a slight exaggeration of the Democrat campaign ads. Faced with a public that is connecting the dots between the Obamacare disaster and its enablers -- Democrats further down the food chain -- the Dems' campaign team is reaching deep into their bag of fear.

Do both sides do it? Of course. Flyers and campaign ads for Republican and Democratic candidates feature unflattering photos of their opponents and grim predictions of a hopeless future if the awful opponent is elected.

In this game, Democrats clearly have the advantage. They love a good fight, and they're skilled in the art of name-calling. Remember when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called peaceful Tea Party protesters "evil mongers" while giving a pass to the vandal-heavy Occupy crowd?

The GOP's idea of a good defense is the protective crouch. Candidates fend off reporters by ceding moral ground and trying to appear harmless. The well-fed establishment consultants tell them that this will attract the elusive "independent" voters. It doesn't. It just depresses the GOP base, as it did in 2008 and 2012. The exception might be in a union-heavy, Democratic state, like New Jersey.

The danger is that GOP strategists may draw the wrong lessons for the rest of the country if Gov. Chris Christie wins big in his re-election race on Tuesday. Keep in mind that the Dems have spent a fortune airing 10 times the number of TV ads against Cuccinelli than his campaign has aired. In New Jersey, spending on legislative races has reached record levels, but little is going to Christie's opponent, Barbara Buono, whom the Democrat money men obviously regard as a lost cause.

The defensive crouch -- which Mr. Christie often admirably avoids but to which he reverts on social issues -- has been the GOP default for so long that many Republicans were scandalized by Ted Cruz. During his marathon floor speech for defunding Obamacare, the Texas senator incinerated the handful of Democrats who tried to trap him. We are so accustomed to Republicans putting the car in reverse that it was bracing to see Cruz instead put the pedal to the metal and run over his opponents, in gentlemanly fashion, with inconvenient truths.

Robert Knight

Robert Knight is an author, senior fellow for the American Civil Rights Union and a frequent contributor to Townhall.