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Cuccinelli Holds Early Lead In Virginia Governor’s Race

After several months where the race was seemingly tied, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has jumped out to an early lead over Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe:

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II has an early lead over businessman Terry McAuliffe in their race for governor, a new Washington Post poll shows, even as most voters in the commonwealth have yet to engage in the nationally watched contest.

Six months before Election Day, Cuccinelli (R) has a slender 46 to 41 percent edge over McAuliffe (D) among all Virginia voters and a significant 51 to 41 percent lead among those who say they’re certain to cast ballots in November. But those numbers may change before then: The poll found that barely 10 percent say they are following the campaign “very closely” and that nearly half of the electorate says they’re either undecided or could change their minds.

With Virginia’s evolution into a swing state, the race is drawing intense scrutiny as the nation’s lone competitive November matchup so far. McAuliffe has not been able to assemble the coalition that has led Democrats to statewide victories. President Obama prevailed in 2008 and 2012, and Democratic U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Timothy M. Kaine won in recent years after running as consensus-building moderates and driving the base turnout.

Having never held office, McAuliffe is the lesser-known quantity in this year’s contest, giving both sides the opportunity to try to define him in coming months. Fully 70 percent of Virginia voters say they know “just a little” or “nothing at all” about him or his qualifications to be governor. Even 65 percent of Democrats know little about the party’s nominee.

There is also broad uncertainty about Cuccinelli — 52 percent of voters say they know little about his qualifications — but the public continues to give a more positive than negative assessment of his work as attorney general. About 54 percent of voters say that he has “high personal moral and ethical standards,” about triple the number saying that he does not.

Cuccinelli is up in the race because he has overwhelming support from the GOP base. Among all registered voters, he’s backed by 95 percent of Republicans, 73 percent of conservatives and 62 percent among white men.

(…)

Regionally, the governor’s contest is basically knotted up in Tidewater, an area Obama won handily last year. In the close-in District suburbs, the home turf of both McAuliffe and Cuccinelli, McAuliffe has the edge 52 to 34 percent. In the Northern Virginia exurbs, where Obama fought to a draw in November, it’s 48 percent for Cuccinelli and 38 percent for McAuliffe.

There also may be a smaller opportunity for a Democrat this year than in the presidential election. Throughout 2012 — and on Election Day — polls consistently showed more self-described Democrats than Republicans in the state; in the new poll, there is far greater parity in partisan self-identification.

One potential positive for McAuliffe is that 45 percent of voters aren’t yet following the race closely. And McAuliffe does far better among those very closely tuned in than he does among those yet to pay much attention.

For some, it’s simply a matter of ideology. In a follow-up interview, Frederick Govoni, 60, a lawn-and-garden-supply salesman from Harrisonburg, said he would back Cuccinelli because he was more in sync with the Republican.

“He’s more conservative than McAuliffe, and when McAuliffe was head of the Democratic Party, I didn’t like some of his stances,” Govoni said.

Overall, 47 percent of registered voters approve of the job Cuccinelli has done as attorney general, while 34 percent disapprove. The numbers are close to those from a May 2011 Washington Post poll.

“He’s done a good job as attorney general,” said Darcy Knox, 51, the owner of a mobile-home park in Staunton. “I think he’s tried to crack down on the abortion clinics, tried to get them up to speed with the hospitals.”

It’s still far too early in this race to say that any kind of a pattern has been established. Both Cuccinelli and McAuliffe only recently went on the air with their first as of the campaign, and they’re both positive ads that basically introduce the candidates to the public, something that McAuliffe especially needs to do. It won’t be too long before the negative ads, both from the campaigns and from outside entities, begin and that’s when we’ll start to get a better idea where the race is headed.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. DC Loser says:

    Please stop with the political navel gazing so early in the season. It’s an off season election, and the Republican base is energized by their wacko candidate. Dems are not even paying attention at this point, and they’re just lukewarm about McAuliffe, a guy with no charisma. Let’s see if Obama will get involved in this election and bring his machine to turn out the vote.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  2. Smooth Jazz says:

    “Let’s see if Obama will get involved in this election and bring his machine to turn out the vote.”

    Yeah, Too early to see that Libs are in trouble. Right. The fact that this “wacko” candidate is cleaning the Libs clock in a supposedly swing state that Obama won, barely 6 months ago, is a very ominous and troubling development for Dems to be sure.

    And just wait until that ObamaCare train wreck disaster gathers steam: McAuliffe will not have a prayer as the Reps will come out in force to show their displeasure with this Obamacare disaster and Dems will trip all over themselves to run away from the bill of goods Obama sold the country.

    Just wait until the vast majority of Americans figure out the”You can keep your doctor”, “You can keep your health plan”, “ObamaCare will reduce the deficit”, etc etc etc lies that assclown Obama forced on this country. McAuliffe will be the least of Lib worries.

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 16

  3. Caj says:

    If Cuccinelli wins, Virginians deserve what they get. Haven’t they seen enough crazy around the country with all these madcap Republicans and their hairbrained ideas and the bills they’ve passed? Stupid is as stupid does apparently!!!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  4. PJ says:

    @Smooth Jazz:
    Hey! It’s back!!!!

    Yeah, Too early to see that Libs are in trouble. Right. The fact that this “wacko” candidate is cleaning the Libs clock in a supposedly swing state that Obama won, barely 6 months ago, is a very ominous and troubling development for Dems to be sure.

    Like the dangerous trend you saw for Democrats in Ohio?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  5. Smooth Jazz says:

    “Like the dangerous trend you saw for Democrats in Ohio? ”

    LMAO. Obama squeaked by with a ilttle over 50% of the vote. A couple votes here and there in OH, CO & VA, and the results would be different. Fair enough. He “won”. But as we all know, these things go in cycles, and off year elections when a particular group of voters get energized can result in some historic paradigm shifts, like we saw in 2010 when Libs were obliterated.

    The problem Lib whack jobs like you have is that living in the past is not going to help you with ObamaCare barrelling down the train tracks. When Obama was running in 2012, ObamaCare was nary a peep on the radar – just a health plan a year to two in the future that voters didn’t really think about as they voted. Now with this impending boondoggle looming, and with former Dem stalwarts calling it a “train wreck”, “an abmonation” and a “disaster” — and as bad news of this massive con job trickles out daily — your jubilation from the 2012 election will turn to horror by this time next year when the country actually has to deal with this monstrosity and Lib politicians start running for cover like cockroaches.

    The difference between the Election of 2012 and the elections of 2013, 2014 – perhaps 2016 – is that voters will be feeing the effects of this ObamaCare disaster as its being implementated. By this time next year, a “Train Wreck” may turn out to be a generous description of this Obama con job.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 13

  6. Gromitt Gunn says:

    Its rather unfortunate that McAuliffe seems to be the best the VA Democrats can do this time around. He is just a really weird dude – definitely not someone anyone would want to have a beer with.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  7. PJ says:

    @Smooth Jazz:
    Good to know what the next thing you’re building your house of mud on is.

    Btw, some more brain cells here and there and you may actually end up with a functioning brain. Well, actually, it’s more like a lot of them….

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  8. Sejanus says:

    I think that this clown called Smooth Jazz is distracting us from a much more important issue – Doug and James are going to once again be complicit in yet another wingnut victory.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  9. Smooth Jazz says:

    “Good to know what the next thing you’re building your house of mud on is. Btw, some more brain cells here and there and you may actually end up with a functioning brain. Well, actually, it’s more like a lot of them….”

    Great, You are certainly good at blurting out – MUSH. I think there is a coherent sentence or point in there somewhere, but I can’t figure it out. Anyways, here is your marching orders for the next few years, through the 2014 mid terms and beyond heading into the 2016 Presidential election: OBAMACARE IS TERRIFIC, OBAMACARE IS TERRIFIC, OBAMACARE IS TERRIFIC….Whoppeedo.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 10

  10. PJ says:

    Fun fact, the national exit poll from the election last year showed that 38% called themselves Democrats, 32% called themselves Republicans and 29% called themselves Independents.

    I recall a certain commenter acting as if he rabies whenever someone mentioned a poll where D – R was more than 2 points….

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  11. Moosebreath says:

    Since Virginia has elected a governor of the opposite party from the sitting President in every election since 1977 (and New Jersey has done the same since 1989), I am not getting worked up about this year’s elections for governor.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  12. Brett says:

    What an election. I have no love for McAuliffe, but Cuccinelli is just all kinds of social conservative stupidity. Not to mention his witch hunter tendencies – remember his harassment of climate change researchers, particularly Michael Mann?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  13. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Brett:

    Not to mention his witch hunter tendencies – remember his harassment of climate change researchers, particularly Michael Mann?

    The beatings will continue until moral improves.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0