Virginia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe is benefiting politically from the federal government shutdown, as he continues to lead Republican opponent, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, ahead of the Nov. 5 election, according to a new poll released Tuesday.
McAuliffe, a prolific Democratic fundraiser and businessman, leads Cuccinelli 46 percent to 39 percent. Libertarian candidate Robert Sarvis garners 11 percent and 4 percent of likely voters remain undecided, according to a poll by Christopher Newport University.
"The federal government shutdown is definitely motivating some voters against Cuccinelli, who already had a tea party problem with independents and business-minded Republicans," said Quentin Kidd, director of the Wason Center for Public Policy in a memo accompanying the poll results.
It was widely expected a government shutdown, which has a significant effect on the concentration of federal workers who live in Northern Virginia, could hurt Cuccinelli because polling shows Americans holding the Republican Party more responsible than Democrats. Of those following the shutdown closely, 50 percent say they support McAuliffe versus 36 percent for Cuccinelli.
But the poll also shows Cuccinelli continuing to struggle with women voters. Democrats have been relentless in portraying his pro-life position as anti-woman. McAuliffe enjoys a 14 percent gender gap, with 51 percent of women supporting him compared to 37 percent for Cuccinelli. Support for McAuliffe among independents has dropped some from a similar poll released Oct. 8, but he still has a 6 percent lead over Cuccinelli with those likely voters as well.
Sarvis' support might end up being the most critical factor for Cuccinelli, however. His supporters would be most likely come from Cuccinelli's base and double-digit support for his third-party candidacy is seriously damaging Cuccinelli's efforts.
"The wild card in this race continues to be Robert Sarvis and the 15 percent of voters who are either taking refuge in his third-party candidacy or are still undecided," Quentin said. "If those numbers hold, Virginia may elect a governor with less than 50 percent of the vote for the first time since an extreme segregationist party splintered the establishment [Democratic Party] Byrd conservatives in 1965."
Neither McAuliffe nor Cuccinelli is very popular with voters and many have seen the increasingly heated campaign to replace Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell as a race to the bottom.
The poll surveyed 753 likely voters from Oct. 8-13 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.6 percent.