Democrat Terry McAuliffe appears poised to be elected Virginia's next governor Nov. 5, according to a new poll showing him beating Republican Ken Cuccinelli by 12 percentage points.
Despite Virginia voters' negative views of both candidates, McAuliffe leads Cuccinelli 51 percent to 39 percent, with Libertarian Party candidate Robert Sarvis garnering 8 percent, according to a Washington Post/Abt-SRBI poll released late Monday. McAuliffe had an 8 percent lead over Cuccinelli in a similar poll taken in September.
McAuliffe, a businessman and former Democratic National Committee chairman, has built a 24-point advantage over Virginia Attorney General Cuccinelli among women voters, by playing up the candidates' differences on reproductive rights. In Blacksburg, during Thursday's third and final gubernatorial debate, McAuliffe took every opportunity to remind voters that his opponent opposed the new federal health care law that requires insurance companies to pay for several women's health services, including cancer screenings and birth control.
But Cuccinelli is also suffering from voters' negative views of the Republican Party brand nationally. Virginia voters have a 50 percent favorable opinion of the Democratic Party, but only 32 percent have a favorable opinion of the GOP. Further exasperating things for Cuccinelli was the recent 16-day federal government shutdown, which is largely blamed on Republicans, according to the survey.
Nearly 70 percent said the government shutdown was an important issue and 82 percent disapproved of it. As for who was responsible, 51 percent of likely voters said it was Republicans at fault compared to 30 percent who blamed President Barack Obama.
It appears McAuliffe has the wind at his back headed into the last week of campaigning, having just completed a tour of the state with former President Bill Clinton, a politician for whom he was a prolific fundraiser. He rallied with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton over the weekend and he will be joined by the president on Sunday.
The high-profile appearances show Democrats leaving nothing to chance, as they try to boost turnout ahead of the off-year election, which tradition says they should lose. For the last nine elections, Virginians have elected a governor from the party opposite that which holds the White House.
On the Republican side, Cuccinelli has been joined on the campaign trail by a number of top tier pols, including Sens. Ted Cruz, Texas, and Rand Paul, Ky. But Cuccinelli has been far outspent by McAuliffe, who outraised him $34 million to $20 million, according to a report by the Virginia Public Access Project, a nonpartisan group tracking money in Virginia politics.
The Washington Post/Abt-SRBI poll surveyed 762 likely voters from Oct. 24-27 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.