McAuliffe up by 4 points as Governor’s race remains close; turn-out will be crucial

Terry McAuliffe at a recent news conference (Staff photo)

Terry McAuliffe at a recent news conference (Staff photo)

The Virginia governor’s race is going down to the wire with Democrat Terry McAuliffe clinging to a slight 45-41 percent likely voter lead over Republican State Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, and 9 percent for Libertarian Party candidate Robert Sarvis, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.

This compares to the results of an October 23 survey by the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University, showing McAuliffe up 46-39 percent, with Sarvis at 10 percent.

Today’s survey shows that if Sarvis were not in the race, McAuliffe would have 47 percent to 45 percent for Cuccinelli, too close to call.

In the three-way matchup, 4 percent of likely voters remain undecided and 7 percent of those who name a candidate say there’s a “good chance” they will change their mind in the next six days.

McAuliffe, a close friend and fund-raiser for the Clintons and self-styled entrepreneur, has held a slight lead for weeks but former GOP Congressman Tom Davis, reacting to the Quinnipiac poll, warned that the race is not yet over.

“Watch out folks, Cuccinelli is one of the best closers in Virginia and the President has upped the ante by coming in this weekend! This has shaped up to be a big opportunity for folks to send Washington a message on ObamaCare.”

The McAullife campaign is also focused on turn-out.

“The last days of this election will be about making sure those who are focused on issues like transportation, education, and diversifying the economy vote on November 5th and don’t let their voices get drowned out by the extreme Tea Party fringe focused on ideological social issues,” said McAuliffe spokesperson Rachel Thomas.

Sarvis popular among independents

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Ken Cuccinelli

McAuliffe leads 91-2 percent among Democrats, with 4 percent for Sarvis, while Cuccinelli leads 86-5 percent among Republicans, with 7 percent for Sarvis. Independent voters go to McAuliffe 46-31 percent, with 16 percent for Sarvis.

Women back the Democrat 50-37 percent, with 7 percent for Sarvis. Men go to Cuccinelli 45-39 percent with 11 percent for Sarvis.

“State Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is nipping at Terry McAuliffe’s heels as the race to be Virginia’s next governor enters the final week of the campaign,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. “It goes without saying that turnout is the key to this race and the harshly negative tone of the campaign is the kind that often turns off voters.”

“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.

“Cuccinelli seems to be benefitting from Republicans coming home, but McAuliffe still does a little better among Democrats than Cuccinelli does among GOPers. And, McAuliffe leads among independents, perhaps the key voting group. It is difficult to see Cuccinelli winning if he can’t run at least even or slightly ahead among independents. Here, too, Sarvis’ voters matter greatly since the libertarian is getting 16 percent of independents, but only 9 percent overall.”

Virginia likely voters give McAuliffe a negative 41-46 percent favorability rating, compared to a negative 40-52 percent for Cuccinelli. For Sarvis, 75 percent don’t know enough to form an opinion.

From October 22-28, Quinnipiac University surveyed 1,182 likely voters with a margin of error of +/- 2.9 percentage points. Live interviewers call land lines and cell phones.

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Truman Lewis
A former reporter and bureau chief, Truman Lewis has covered presidential campaigns, state politics and stories ranging from organized crime to environmental and consumer protection.