Four New Polls Show Some Tightening In Virginia, But McAuliffe Still Leads

Some interesting polls out of Virginia today, but McAuliffe is still the clear leader in this race.


The election to select Virginia’s next Governor is now less than a week away and both candidates are now rapidly moving into that part of the campaign that involves attempting to ramp up enthusiasm among their respective bases heading into Election Day. For Ken Cuccinelli, that means bringing in Republican stars like Governor Bobby Jindal and Rand Paul. For Terry McAuliffe, that means bringing in Hillary and Bill Clinton and, starting on Sunday, back to back appearances with President Obama and Vice-President Biden. In the meantime, we got four new polls today that, with one exception, seem to suggest some tightening in the race compared to two previous polls that showed double digit McAuliffe leads, but overall it still looks like McAuliffe is headed to victory.

Here’s what the polls are telling us:

  • First up this morning was the release of a Quinnipiac poll that showed McAuliffe with a four point lead over Cuccinelli (45% to 41% with 9% for Libertarian Robert Sarvis), the smallest of any poll for more than a month. As The Washington Post notes, one of the main reasons for this shrinking lead is that Quinnipiac’s likely voter model for that favored Republicans by two points. This is different both from the Post poll from earlier this week, and Quinnipiac’s poll earlier in the week. Quinnipiac doesn’t really explain why their model changed and whether it was deliberate, or merely a statistical oddity based on the particular sample in this poll;
  • Standing in stark contrast to the Quinnipiac poll is the Roanooke College poll, which has McAuliffe ahead 15 points (48% to 33% with 10% for Sarvis). Roanoke College’s poll has a D+9 sample;
  • More consistent with recent polling is a Hampton University poll that shows McAuliffe ahead by six points (42% vs. 36% for Cuccinelli and 12% for Sarvis). This poll has a D+2 sample; and,
  • Finally, a new Rasmussen Poll has McAuliffe with a seven point lead (43% to 36% for Cuccinelli). This is a marked change from last week when Rasmussen showed a 17 point lead, but it’s unclear if this is due to any real change in the candidate’s level of support, or because Rasmussen changed their turnout model. Since Rasmussen keeps crosstabs behind a paywall, I can’t speak to that.

Obviously, Cuccinelli supporters jumped on the Quinnipiac poll as soon as it came out because it is the first poll that’s been out since September that shows the race might actually be within reach. However, as I noted when I responded to one of them on Twitter early this morning, it’s hard to tell if that number is a sign of real change or an outlier. Given the other polls that came out today, and the fact that the change in the Q poll is due almost entirely to changes in the voter turnout model, I’m tempted to say that it is indeed an outlier. At the same time, though, it’s also a reminder that what happens on Tuesday here in Virginia is going to depend strongly on who turns out to vote. It’s typically been the case that off-year elections in Virginia tend to bring out an electorate that is more favorable to Republicans than Democrats. For example, when President Obama won the state in 2008, Democrats outnumbered Republicans by six points. In 2012, there was a seven point Democratic advantage.  When Republicans swept the three statewide offices in 2009, though, the electorate favored Republicans by four percentage points.

Obviously, the closer the electorate on Tuesday is to the 2009 model, the better the news could possibly be for Attorney General Cuccinelli. However, Virginia Democrats have learned a lot of lessons about turnout from the Obama campaign and most observers don’t expect a 2009-like turnout this time around. One of the main reasons for that is that the McAuliffe campaign appears to be doing a better job at generating enthusiasm than the Creigh Deeds campaign did in 2009. Another is the fact that there is a not insignificant number of McAuliffe supporters who are motivated strongly to vote against Cuccinelli, that’s the kind of attitude that can generally get people to the polls. One possible indication of where turnout may be headed can be seen in this report on a Democratic blog in Northern Virginia which reports a massive increase in early voting in Fairfax County. Assuming that this is true, it’s likely to be very favorable for McAuliffe.

Getting back to the numbers, the latest polls have caused some movement in the RealClearPolitics average. In a head-to-head race, McAuliffe now has a +7.6 point lead, while his lead is +8.3 points in a three way race that includes Sarvis. That’s still a fairly healthy lead, of course, and barring anything major happening in this race in the next 5 days or so, this still looks like a McAuliffe victory, along with a probable Democratic victory in the Lt. Governor’s race. If these polls end up being wrong, it’s going to end up being because nearly all the pollsters got the voter turnout model wrong. That, however, is a hope that Republicans were clinging desperately too exactly a year ago and we saw how that turned out.

FILED UNDER: 2013 Election, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held 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 contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. gVOR08 says:

    Thank god there are only six days left ’til we’ll have actual election results and no more speculation.

  2. Ron Beasley says:

    It’s closing because both sides want to limit contraception and place ultrasound probes in women’s vaginas. Or maybe not!

  3. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    Just wondering… is the embargo on McAuliffe’s flaws and weaknesses formal, or just an unspoken consensus, like the blackout on Zimmerman stories during his trial?

    And like the Zimmerman precedent, will there be a flood of stories about how bad McAuliffe is once the election is safely passed?

  4. wr says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: Waaaaah! Waaaaah! Waaaah!

    That sums up your post, doesn’t it?

  5. LGM-Balloon Juice Troll says:

    I can’t wait to see the hemming and hawing on this site when Cuccinelli wins next week.


    It’s in the bag. You can take that to the bank.

    It’s. In. The. F*cking. Bag!

  6. David M says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    Given that the many people are amazed that Terry McAuliffe can win an election, even with his faults, your statement would seem to be an indictment of your poor reading comprehension.

  7. Neil Hudelson says:


    Notice these posts from Doug about polling also do not mention “flaws” of Cuccinelli, outside of “he’s losing, and the polls show it?”

    I know its extremely hard for you, but some people just want to write about one particular subject. I gather from Doug’s posts that he is not a fan of either candidate, so he writes simply about how the campaign itself is going.

    So, poor, poor, Jenos. You are correct. He hasn’t numbered every flaw Terry has. I know that’s a travesty in your mind, and clearly proves that the world is out to get conservatives. But in reality, his (or Cucinelli’s) flaws have not been numbered, listed, ranked, and analyzed because that is not what this post is about.

  8. Hans Bader says:

    There’s no tightening in this race. It’s going to be a Democratic sweep, with comfortable Democratic victory margins for all statewide offices, as the most recent poll shows:

    In a sensible world, candidates of both parties would be running negative ads highlighting what’s wrong with the opposing candidate. But on my television, I only see Democratic ads, not Republican ads. The GOP candidates are seemingly not even fighting back (they are not even rebutting factually false claims, much less those that are debatable.). Only the Democrats seem to have good campaign consultants in this election cycle.

    (It doesn’t hurt that the most electable and centrist GOP candidates weren’t even nominated, thanks to the GOP’s ill-conceived decision to hold a convention rather than a more representative primary).

  9. Gromitt Gunn says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: Sorry, but that dog don’t hunt.

    If you go through the multiple threads that Doug has written on this race, you’ll see a fairly sizable amount of comments regarding the fact that McAullife is a horrible candidate (and person), but that electing the Cooch is simply unthinkable. One of the posts over the past couple of days even mentioned specifically that many voters polled are voting against the Cooch and picking the lesser of two evils.

  10. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @Gromitt Gunn: If you go through the multiple threads that Doug has written on this race, you’ll see a fairly sizable amount of comments regarding the fact that McAullife is a horrible candidate (and person)

    I see two ways of interpreting that statement. 1) Doug has commented on McAuliffe’s character, or 2) readers have taken the opportunity on Doug’s articles to comment on McAuliffe’s character.

    Which did you mean? I don’t recall the former, and don’t count the latter.

  11. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: You need help. Seriously.

  12. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: You need help. Seriously.

    You’re right. I need some help finding these articles Grommitt is talking about. Throw a guy a frickin’ bone, will ya?

  13. george says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    You know, for some reason you consistently show that you believe the media is a monolithic entity. That’s so obviously incorrect that I’m beginning to think that either you live in a small town with only one newspaper, no cable, and a very restricted Internet access that somehow only allows web sites showing one opinion.

    If you talk to your ISP, I’m sure they can open you up to the wide spectrum of political views the rest of the nation enjoys, and there’s probably a cable or satellite company nearby that will let you listen to the same complete spectrum of political views enjoyed by 99.999% of the American population.

    As for the newspapers, that’s harder – you might have to move to a town with more than one newspaper, and which gets a wider range of politcal news magazines in the shops.

    Because the monolithic media you seem to suffer from isn’t seen anywhere else in America. A quick Google brings up plenty of hits representing just about every political viewpoint out there. You’re complaining about a problem (an America in which reporting from only one political view was available) which was never more than partial, and now doesn’t exist at all.

    Seriously, go online some more and look around – there are a lot more views represented (all across the spectrum) than you see in your little town/limited ISP service.

    If nothing else, talk to some of the kids in your neighborhood, they’re probably pretty comfortable with the Internet and the wide range of what’s available on it, and can get you started.