News Column

McAuliffe Leads in Virginia Governor's Race

August 22, 2013

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe holds a 6-percentage-point edge over Republican Ken Cuccinelli in the first Quinnipiac University poll of the campaign among voters likely to cast ballots in the November election.

McAuliffe holds a lead of 48 percent to 42 percent in the survey released this morning, while the down ticket candidates are still unknown to a majority of Virginians.

McAuliffe is viewed favorably by 34 percent and unfavorably by 33 percent, but 31 percent of voters had not heard enough about him to give an opinion.

Cuccinelli, the state's attorney general, is viewed favorably by 35 percent of voters and unfavorably by 41 percent while only 22 percent hadn't heard enough to form an opinion, according to the poll.

The poll did not include the Libertarian nominee for governor, Robert C. Sarvis.

"The campaign has been light on issues and big on personalities, and it is in the area of personal characteristics that McAuliffe has a small edge," said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the university's Polling Institute.

"It seems obvious that Gov. Bob McDonnell's political troubles are hurting fellow Republican Cuccinelli. Guilt by association may not be fair, but it sure is politically powerful. Trust matters and at this point neither man is doing all that well in that category."

McDonnell faces state and federal investigations into him and his acceptance of gifts from Jonnie Williams Sr., a wealthy donor and the CEO of Star Scientific, and whether Star received any state benefit in exchange for the gifts that Williams gave the first family.

On the issue of trust in the governor's race, 43 percent of those polled said they would not say Cuccinelli is honest and trustworthy while 42 percent said they do and 15 percent didn't know.

Thirty-nine percent of voters said they think McAuliffe is honest and trustworthy while 36 percent said no and 25 percent did not know.

Asked whether the candidate "understands the problems of people like you," 42 percent said McAuliffe does not and 38 percent said he does.

As for Cuccinelli, 51 percent said he does not understand such problems, while 37 percent said he does.

Cuccinelli bests McAuliffe on who has the right experience to be governor.

"Democrat Terry McAuliffe is up 16 percentage points among voters who say empathy or understanding their problems is extremely important, while Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has a 23-point advantage among those who say the right kind of experience is extremely important," Brown said.

"It's a tossup among voters who say honesty is extremely important. Voters care more about empathy than experience which helps explain McAuliffe's lead."

The candidates running for lieutenant governor and attorney general are still unknown to a majority of likely voters. In the contest for lieutenant governor, 75 percent of the likely voters surveyed did not know enough about Republican nominee EW Jackson to , and 87 percent did not know enough about his Democratic challenger, Ralph Northam.

For the attorney general candidates, 88 percent of those polled did not have an opinion of Sen. Mark R. Herring, D-Loudoun, and 82 percent had no opinion of Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg.

Quinnipiac surveyed 1,129 likely voters Aug. 14 19, with a margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 percentage points.

"Despite the barrage of negative attacks, the race for governor is extremely close and will remain as such," said Anna Nix, a spokeswoman for Cuccinelli's campaign. "Going into the fall in an off-year election, when voters focus to a greater degree on the gubernatorial contest, the dishonest comments McAuliffe has perpetuated about his background and business record will be front and center, as will the two federal investigations involving his former car company.

"At the end of the day, Ken Cuccinelli's positive vision and substantive plans for Virginia's future, compared to Terry McAuliffe's flawed record as a failed job creator and political influence peddler, will carry the attorney general to victory."

Voters said McAuliffe spends more time attacking Cuccinelli rather than explaining what he would do if elected.

Thirty-two percent said Cuccinelli is spending more time explaining his proposals and 52 percent said he's spending more time attacking McAuliffe.

As for McAuliffe, 25 percent said he is spending more time explaining his positions and 56 percent said he is spending more time attacking McAuliffe.

McAuliffe campaign spokesman Josh Schwerin noted the endorsement Tuesday from Boyd Marcus, a political strategist who has advised Republican campaigns in Virginia for more than 30 years.

"It's important never to put too much stock in a poll; the more telling sign is the steady stream of Republicans like Boyd Marcus who are endorsing Terry because they trust his mainstream bipartisan approach over Ken Cuccinelli's divisive agenda."


(c)2013 the Richmond Times-Dispatch (Richmond, Va.)

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Source: Copyright Richmond Times-Dispatch (VA) 2013

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