How close is the race for governor of Virginia?
October 30th, 2013
08:56 AM ET
10 months ago

How close is the race for governor of Virginia?

Washington (CNN) -  Is Democrat Terry McAuliffe opening up a double-digit lead over Republican Ken Cuccinelli in the much-watched battle for Virginia governor? Or with six days to go until Election Day, is the race closer than ever?

Four new public opinion polls have very different answers.

According to a Quinnipiac University poll conducted over the past week and released Wednesday morning, McAuliffe, a businessman and politically well-connected former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, holds a slight 45%-41% margin over Cuccinelli, Virginia's Attorney General, among likely Commonwealth voters. Libertarian candidate Robert Sarvis stands at nine percent, with four percent unsure. McAuliffe's four-percentage point edge is down from a seven point lead in Quinnipiac's last poll, which was conducted a week earlier.

McAuliffe's holds a 15 point 46%-31% lead over Cuccinelli in a Roanoke College poll that was released just a few hours after the Quinnipiac survey. The poll indicates Sarvis at nine percent, with a very high 14% undecided.

The results of the Quinnipiac and Roanoke surveys differ from a  Washington Post/Abt SRBI survey released Monday night, which indicated McAuliffe leading Cuccinelli by 12 points,  51%-39%, with Sarvis, who made the most of voter discontent with the two major candidates, at nine percent.

And a survey released Wednesday by the Hampton University Center for Public Policy indicates McAuliffe with a six-point 42%-36% advantage over Cuccinelli, with Sarvis at 12% and a one in ten unsure.

McAuliffe was up from the mid to high single digits in just about every public opinion poll  conducted from the beginning of September through the middle of this month.

The Quinnipiac poll indicates a divide between men and women, but not as wide a gender gap as registered in the Washington Post survey. According to Quinnipiac, women back McAuliffe 50%-37% over Cuccinelli, with men going for Cuccinelli 45%-39% over McAuliffe.

According to the survey, McAuliffe is grabbing 91% of the Democratic vote, with Cuccinelli taking 86% of Republicans, and independents backing McAuliffe 46%-31%.

"With the race this close, the final decision by the roughly one in 10 voters who are supporting Libertarian Robert Sarvis has become even more critical.  Nationally, third-party candidates often lose support in the end as voters enter the voting booth and back someone they consider the lesser of two evils.  Only six in 10 Sarvis supporters say they definitely will vote for him. Almost nine in 10 McAuliffe and Cuccinelli backers are committed," says Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

The Roanoke poll indicates Cuccinelli with a 28% favorable rating and a 52% unfavorable rating. The survey suggests that the election is shaping up as a referendum on Cuccinelli, with more than half (58%) of his supporters said they are voting for Cuccinelli while a plurality (44%) of McAuliffe voters said they are voting against Cuccinelli.

"At this point, Cuccinelli has to hope that voting for him is a much stronger motivator than voting against him," says Dr. Harry Wilson, director of the Institute for Policy and Opinion Research. "McAuliffe's comparatively lower ratings on honesty and intelligence do not suggest that voters are enamored of him. As many voters anecdotally told our interviewers, he is the 'lesser of the evils'."

Getting out the base

While McAuliffe is ahead in all the public opinion polls and while he and his allies have greatly outraised and outspent Cuccinelli and the outside groups backing the GOP candidate, this is expected to be a low-turnout, off-year election which tends to trend older and slightly more conservative. That's why, with the clock ticking towards Election Day, both campaigns are putting the emphasis in the homestretch on getting their voters out to the polls.

The Quinnipiac poll's release comes as McAuliffe campaigns Wednesday for a fourth straight day with just about the biggest star in his party, former President Bill Clinton, who's a close friend. McAuliffe is joined Sunday by President Barack Obama and the next day by Vice President Joe Biden at rallies in the Northern Virginia suburbs of Washington DC, a Democratic stronghold.

Conservative stars pitch in for Cuccinelli

While Cuccinelli can't count on any presidents or former presidents joining him on the campaign trail, he is getting a helping hand from some conservative favorites.

Even though he's considered a hero to many tea party supporters and other grassroots activists thanks to his very public conservative crusades, including his push against Obamacare, Cuccinelli is bringing in the cavalry to help bring out conservative voters to the polls.

Tuesday he teamed up with with two-term Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who has strong credentials with fiscal and social conservatives. On Monday, Cuccinelli was joined at three events with Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, who's become one of the biggest stars of the conservative movement. At an event in voter-rich northern Virginia, Paul touted that Cuccinelli was "the first attorney general to sue over Obamacare," and went on to predict that "he'll be a leader in defending Virginia against an overzealous government."

Earlier this month former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a 2008 GOP presidential candidate and current Fox News and talk radio host, joined Cuccinelli on the campaign trail, as did Nikki Haley, South Carolina's Republican governor.

Last week Cuccinelli was joined by House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, the 2012 GOP vice presidential nominee, on a conference call. And former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, who last year battled eventual Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney deep into the primary calendar, will join Cuccinelli on the campaign trail on Saturday and Santorum's using his political action committee to recruit supporters to knock on doors for Cuccinelli this weekend.

Much Watched Race

 Virginia and New Jersey are the only two states to hold elections for governor in the year after a presidential contest, resulting in outsized attention. And with the Garden State's Republican governor, Chris Christie, holding a huge lead over his Democratic challenger in his re-election bid, the Virginia race is considered the only competitive statewide contest this year.

If McAuliffe wins, he would break a long streak in Virginia gubernatorial contests. In the last nine elections, the political party controlling the White House lost the governor's race in the Old Dominion.

Republicans currently control 30 of the nation's governorships.

The Quinnipiac University poll was conducted October 22-28, with 1,182 likely voters in Virginia questioned by telephone. The survey's sampling error is plus or minus 2.9 percentage points.

The Washington Post/Abt SRBI poll was conducted October 24-27, with 1,061 registered voters, including 761 likely voters, questioned by telephone. The survey's sampling error for likely voters is plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

The Roanoke College poll was conducted October 21-27, with 838 likely voters in the Old Dominion questioned by telephone. The survey's sampling error is plus or minus 3.4 percentage points.


Filed under: Ken Cuccinelli • Terry McAuliffe • Virginia
soundoff (26 Responses)
  1. Jeff Brown in Jersey

    Bye Bye Cooch!

    October 30, 2013 08:57 am at 8:57 am |
  2. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Take Back The House -aka- No Redemption Votes

    It's a 12 point lead for McAuliffe. It's a wrap for Coockoo. He's just so bad for Virginia.

    October 30, 2013 09:15 am at 9:15 am |
  3. Tampa Tim

    The Cooch still has voter suppression going for him, and he gets to certify whether he wins or loses.

    October 30, 2013 09:22 am at 9:22 am |
  4. Gurgyl

    VA go vote straight Democratic ticket. GOP shut down hurts nation.

    October 30, 2013 09:27 am at 9:27 am |
  5. Rudy NYC

    How could any person, woman, or husband vote for another Republican governor? If you put a Republican in the state mansion, then they'll get all head strong and take it to mean a mandate to pass another probe bill.

    October 30, 2013 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
  6. Name jk. Sfl. GOP CRUZ lee&rubio 24billion dallar LOSS of your tax money conservatives,the garbage of America.

    How could ANYONE vote for a teaparty GOP idiot whose GOP party just lost 24 billion dallars of our money in two weeks and got NOTHING for it. Vote dem and get rid of these GOP IDIOTS!!!!!!!!!

    October 30, 2013 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
  7. MaryM

    The Cooch is gone.

    October 30, 2013 09:44 am at 9:44 am |
  8. Norma Vessels

    The voter supression law just passed, means every single person in Virginia, that can vote, please, get out there and vote, before even your vote is taken away by the Republicans.

    October 30, 2013 09:44 am at 9:44 am |
  9. Hector Slagg

    Humm,
    If news reports are correct, where Republician's have replaced Democrats the states have vastly improved their budget woes. Wisconsin, Ohio, and some others. Our biggest mess, by far, is in Washington. All put in place by Democrats. But it's your vote, see if you like the results.And, if Democrat, Liberal Politics were so great, why is the country in such a mess?

    October 30, 2013 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  10. jboh

    Throw the Talibangelical clown out on his ear.

    October 30, 2013 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  11. David Cartier

    McAuliffe is being investigated by two grand juries and Cuccinelli is an evangelical tool. They are both carpetbaggers. Sarvis is the choice for people who are tired of the same old game, every election cycle.

    October 30, 2013 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  12. Tampa Tim

    Republican governors took stimulus money and put it toward their state's debt, instead of putting it toward helping people.

    October 30, 2013 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  13. HenryMiller

    With a great example—Obamacare—going on of the kind of disasters the Democrats inflict on the nation, it amazes me that anyone will still vote for a Democrat.

    Be sensible: vote for the Libertarian guy, Sarvis. I guarantee he'd never try to inflict anything like "Sarviscare" on you

    October 30, 2013 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  14. The Real Tom Paine

    The GOP governors like Christie, Kasich and Walker rank at or near the bottom in job creation: not a great result for the 2010 " jobs, jobs, jobs " mantra you kept hearing. Of course, you can always move to TX and get a job at Wal-Mart.

    October 30, 2013 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  15. Rudy NYC

    HenryMiller

    With a great example—Obamacare—going on of the kind of disasters the Democrats inflict on the nation, it amazes me that anyone will still vote for a Democrat.

    Be sensible: vote for the Libertarian guy, Sarvis. I guarantee he'd never try to inflict anything like "Sarviscare" on you
    ---------------------------–
    Nope, he wouldn't He'd try to invoke "Sarvis Law" on everyone. In other words, takes back to the days of no state borders and living on the open range, just like they did on "The Waltons."

    October 30, 2013 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  16. Lynda/Minnesota

    Spin it anyway you want, CNN. Cuccinelli will not be winning this election.

    October 30, 2013 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  17. rs

    Hector Slagg

    Humm,
    If news reports are correct, where Republician's have replaced Democrats the states have vastly improved their budget woes. Wisconsin, Ohio, and some others. Our biggest mess, by far, is in Washington. All put in place by Democrats. But it's your vote, see if you like the results.And, if Democrat, Liberal Politics were so great, why is the country in such a mess?
    _______________________
    GOP "cut taxes and spend" dribble down economics- it hasn't worked for 30 years, but boy, the rich got richer, and the debt got bigger!

    October 30, 2013 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  18. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Virginia is going Blue

    October 30, 2013 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  19. Howie

    Virginians, don't let the GOP rig your electoral votes, as they've tried already.

    October 30, 2013 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  20. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Take Back The House -aka- No Redemption Votes

    Spin Spin Spin. This race was over before it started. The Cooch makes McDonnell look like a choir boy. Invasive transvaginal ultrasound? That's small potatoes compared to outlawing birth control and banning women from divorcing their abusive husbands.

    October 30, 2013 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  21. Rudy NYC

    Hector Slagg

    Humm,
    If news reports are correct, where Republician's have replaced Democrats the states have vastly improved their budget woes. Wisconsin, Ohio, and some others.
    ---------------------–
    If your "some others" includes New Jersey, then you just named the states that rank at or near the bottom in job creation. Texas is supposed to rank at or near the top in job creation, but they also rank at or near the bottom in average wages, infant mortality rates, most uninusred, most uneducated, most polluted, and low state income but some of the highest fees of any state in the nation.

    October 30, 2013 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  22. Thomas

    I like what one republican strategist said , The American people have no memory !

    How much did the war in Iraq cost ?

    October 30, 2013 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  23. ST

    There isn't even a single poll which shows Cuccinelli is ahead. Still some think he can make a miracle and pull it the last day? Mmmmh! that doesn't close my mind and others at all. He better start cleaning up the Office ready for the new comer.

    October 30, 2013 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  24. Abbey

    What another Borrow and Spend Democrat wants to hijack a state? If the voters in VA want it bye-bye!

    October 30, 2013 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  25. Hector Slagg

    Well, rs,
    So you don't like Trickle Down Economics? Well everybody want's to get rich, but that takes work, for most of us. I have never had any problem with someone being sucessful in life. Some try "Occupying Wall Street. But for real advice, WHEN IN DOUBT, RUN IN CIRCLES, SCREAM AND SHOT. But, when all else fails, Read the directions. better yet, (Now here is some real good advice), BOOK YOU OWN LIFE ! Not sure what will help you there rs, but it beats waiting for the Liberal's to do anything. positive.

    October 30, 2013 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
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