Both went quickly on the attack, McAuliffe charging Cuccinelli with pursuing a social ideological agenda that aims to outlaw contraception, and put walls around Virginia.
And Cuccinelli accused McAuliffe of using political deals to enrich himself, saying McAuliffe would fight only for himself.
So moderator Chuck Todd asked each to respond to the caricatures that these attack ads present to viewers.
"I've been involved in a wide variety of different businesses,” McAuliffe said. “I want to bring that business experience.”
“I think it's important to have someone in the governor's office who has those business experience, who understands the ups and downs of business,” McAuliffe added.
Cuccinelli emphasized that some basic belief are very fundamental to him. “But overwhelming proportion of my time as attorney general has been spent moving Virginia forward economically and protecting liberty in our constitution."
Other differences in the debate included McAuliffe’s support of expanding Medicaid to cover more of the poor, which Cuccinelli opposes as federal overreach.
Robert Sarvis, the Libertarian candidate, was not invited to the debate. You can find ongoing coverage of him here.