A Quinnipiac poll released on Wednesday shows Democrat Terry McAuliffe leading Republican State Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli 48 percent to 42 percent in Virginia’s gubernatorial race.
Though the 6 point lead is only a point higher than McAuliffe enjoyed in July, the Democrat is now up 16 percent “among voters who say empathy or understanding their problems is extremely important.”
However, more specific questions concerning the candidates’ most recent behavior and honesty finds Cuccinelli leading McAuliffe, who has a stronger 92 percent backing from Virginia Democrats than Cuccinelli’s 90 percent backing from Virginia Republicans.
The respondents were split 39 to 36 percent on whether McAuliffe is “honest and trustworthy” – the traits that Virginians voted they value most in a candidate — and are even more closely divided on Cuccinelli’s honesty, at 42 to 43 percent.
Voters have taken note of the race’s deeply negative tone. The poll finds that 52 percent of Virginians believe Cuccinelli spends more time attacking his opponent than explaining what he would do as governor, while 56 percent believe the same about McAuliffe.
Cuccinelli has painted McAuliffe, the former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, as the “bad for business” candidate since news broke out that GreenTech Automotive, an out-of-state green-car company McAuliffe helped establish and once chaired, is now under two separate federal investigations.
McAuliffe has denied having any knowledge of the “document” investigators are looking at. While refusing to take any responsibility for the troubled company, McAuliffe has attacked Cuccinelli on his stance on gay marriage, his support of an anti-sodomy law, and, most recently, the attorney general’s record of “ethics.”
Since it was revealed that nutritional supplement company Star Scientific gave Cuccinelli $18,000 worth of gifts, McAuliffe has demanded that Cuccinelli either pay back the money or return the gifts. Cuccinelli publicly declared that he would not do so, stating: “There are some bells you can’t unring.”
Despite refusing to return the gifts or money, Cuccinelli’s campaign was not rocked by the scandal the way McAuliffe expected it would be.
Perhaps this is because, as assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute Peter A. Brown notes, Virginians “seem able to separate their views” and “their evaluation” of a candidate’s “ability to run a state.”
Another Quinnipiac poll released Thursday morning finds that 47 percent of Virginia voters still approve of the job current GOP governor Bob McDonnell is doing, despite being plagued by his own Star Scientific scandal, after it was revealed that he and his family had received thousands of dollars in money and gifts in exchange for “agreeing to take official actions to aid” the company.
Although the attorney general is facing a 6 point deficit just three months before the election, he may be able to reel in more independent voters, among whom he has a 2 point lead. White male voters are also more supportive of and enthusiastic about Cuccinelli – Cuccinelli leads McAuliffe 50 percent to 42 percent among white voters, but only 46 percent to 45 percent among male voters.
Cuccinelli’s campaign also seems unharmed by Republican lieutenant attorney general candidate E.W. Jackson, whose extremism many believed would hurt him. Fortunately for Cuccinelli, Wednesday’s poll finds that an overwhelming 75 percent of Virginia voters are still unfamiliar with Jackson.
Wednesday’s Quinnipiac poll of 1,129 voters was conducted from August 14-19 and has a margin of error of +/- 2.9 percentage points, while Thursday’s poll of 1,374 voters was conducted from August 14-19 and has a margin of error of +/- 2.6 percentage points.
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