Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli have taken different approaches in commenting on Arizona's new immigration law, presenting another subtle divide between the two officials.
On Wednesday, a judge issued a preliminary injunction striking down parts of Arizona's controversial immigration law that went into effect Thursday.
On his monthly radio appearance on WRVA in Richmond, McDonnell said Thursday it was too early to get any comment on what's going on in Arizona, but that it was "unusual" for the United States to invoke the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution to try to invalidate Arizona's new law.
"We are currently reviewing the preliminary injunction," said spokeswoman Stacey Johnson. "As previously stated, the governor is a strong proponent of securing America's borders, upholding the rule of law, and lawful immigration that meets the economic needs of America."
Cuccinelli, who joined a coalition of nine states filing a friend-of-the-court brief supporting Arizona's law, came out much more strongly than McDonnell's measured tone.
"I continue to hope that, ultimately, the courts will find Arizona's effort to protect its citizens to be constitutional," he said.
Both McDonnell and Cuccinelli pointed out that there was a long way to go in the process. But their respective approaches to the hot-button issue, while subtle, are illustrative of a larger difference between the styles of the two politicians.
A prominent example came in March, when Cuccinelli sent a letter to Virginia's colleges and universities saying that they lacked authority to include "sexual orientation" in their anti-discrimination policies.
After a litany of protests, McDonnell issued an executive directive to formally bar bias against gays working for the state.
McDonnell was elected, in part, because he presented himself as a moderate Republican and didn't talk about divisive social issues, said Stephen Farnsworth, a professor of communication at George Mason University.
"Unfortunately, what Cuccinelli does is raise the question of how conservative the Virginia Republican Party is," Farnsworth said. "This is not the happiest of Republican marriages."
But Daniel Palazzolo, a political science professor at the University of Richmond, said that part of their differences merely comes with the nature of the two offices, noting that the country has a long history of aggressive attorney generals, while governors have more of a "luxury" of withholding judgment.