Democrat Terry McAuliffe has jumped to a 17-point lead over Republican Ken Cuccinelli in the Virginia gubernatorial race following the federal government shutdown that hit Northern Virginia hard and Hillary Clinton’s weekend visit to the state.
The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Virginia Voters finds McAuliffe with 50% support to Cuccinelli’s 33%. Libertarian candidate Robert Sarvis is a distant third with eight percent (8%) of the vote. Three percent (3%) like some other candidate, while five percent (5%) remain undecided. (To see survey question wording, click here.)
A few quick thoughts:
(1) This poll could be an outlier. An NBC4/NBC News/Marist poll conducted just last week showed Cuccinelli trailing McAuliffe by only nine percentage points. That means in the last seven days McAuliffe has essentially doubled his lead and is now poised to win the election by a landslide? I don’t buy it. Then again, Bill and Hillary have been stumping for him lately, and another poll released yesterday showed Cuccinelli down by 18 percentage points. Add to those unfortunate developments swirling rumors that Republicans are setting their sights on “more winnable” candidates and Cuccinelli’s implosion isn’t all too surprising.
(2) Besides McAuliffe’s successful smear campaign, there’s something else that might be hurting Cuccinelli: the presence of Libertarian candidate Robert Sarvis in the race. Per Rasmussen, he’s garnering eight percent of the vote right now. In the scheme of things, of course, that’s not terribly impressive, but I suspect at least some of those voters could firmly be in Team Cuccinelli’s camp if and when he exited the race. Unfortunately, that's unlikely to happen.
(3) The government shutdown unquestionably hurt Cuccinelli. Why? Because although most voters don’t necessarily blame him per se for the dysfunction in Washington, as we’ve seen, the Republican Party has taken a major hit. This will likely translate into lost votes for Cuccinelli -- especially since a plurality of likely voters work inside-the-beltway.
In sum, Cuccinelli has been trailing in the polls for quite some time now. But now it’s crunch time. Let's hope Mike Huckabee and Cuccinelli's conservative backers can help push him over the top come election day.