LYNCHBURG, Va. — Tea Party hero Rand Paul warned that scientific advancements could lead to eugenics during a visit Monday to Liberty University, where he was looking to boost the political fortunes of fellow Republican Ken Cuccinelli, who is running for governor of Virginia.
Paul sought to energize conservative supporters by warning that genetic tests could identify those who are predisposed to be short, overweight or less intelligent so they could be eliminated.
With one week remaining before Election Day, Cuccinelli is hoping the appearance with the U.S. senator from Kentucky will encourage the far-right flank of his party to abandon third-party libertarian spoiler Robert Sarvis.
"In your lifetime, much of your potential — or lack thereof — can be known simply by swabbing the inside of your cheek," Paul said to a packed sporting arena on the campus of the Christian school founded by Jerry Falwell. "Are we prepared to select out the imperfect among us?"
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Some states ran eugenics programs during the 1900s that sterilized those considered defective. All the programs were abandoned by the 1970s after scientists discredited the idea.
Campaigning later in the day on Virginia Tech's campus, Democrat Terry McAuliffe renewed criticism of Cuccinelli as a candidate who doesn't believe in science and sought to remind voters that Cuccinelli unsuccessfully sued a University of Virginia researcher under the state's anti-fraud law.
"He doesn't believe in climate science," McAuliffe said. So Cuccinelli, a skeptic of climate change, went on what McAuliffe called a "witch hunt" against Michael Mann, McAuliffe said.
The University of Virginia, a public school, spent $600,000 to defend itself. The state Supreme Court dismissed Cuccinelli's complaint.
"We cannot grow Virginia's economy by suing scientists," McAuliffe added.
Meanwhile, former President Bill Clinton said genetics was helping doctors identify individuals at greater risk for illness and advising them to get tested earlier. Clinton, a McAuliffe pal who is campaigning with him, said the science was saving lives, not costing them.
"We are now learning things that will help us deal with Alzheimer's and various kinds of cancers. We've already identified the genetic markers that are high predictors of breast cancers," said Clinton, who as president announced the first map of the human genome.
Cuccinelli, who trails McAuliffe in polls and money, was fighting to reset the race that has slipped from his grasp. He has turned to conservative base issues such as abortion rights, coal and guns to make sure his allies show up for Nov. 5 election. He also has turned to Tea Party leaders such as Paul to persuade Republicans to cast their ballots for him and not for Sarvis.