Government Shutdown Hurting Republicans In Virginia Governor’s Race

The government shutdown seems to be having an impact on the one competitive statewide race in country this year.

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A new Politico poll of the Virginia Governor’s race provides the starkest indication yet that the government shutdown may be hurting Republican candidates, in this specific case the candidacy of Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli for Governor of Virginia:

Democrat Terry McAuliffe has opened up a significant lead over Republican Ken Cuccinelli in the Virginia governor’s race amid broad public disapproval of the federal government shutdown, according to a POLITICO poll of the 2013 gubernatorial election.

McAuliffe, the former national Democratic Party chairman, is now 9 points ahead of Cuccinelli, the current state attorney general, in a race that also includes Libertarian nominee Robert Sarvis. In the survey, McAuliffe drew support from 44 percent of Virginians versus 35 percent for Cuccinelli and 12 percent for Sarvis.

Four weeks from Election Day, McAuliffe also leads Cuccinelli in a one-on-one contest, 52 percent to 42 percent.

The POLITICO poll, conducted by Democratic firm Public Policy Polling and Republican firm Harper Polling using automated survey methodology, is the first snapshot of the Virginia race to take into account the impact of the closure of the federal government. The survey tested 1,150 likely voters Oct. 5- 6 with a margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 percentage points.

For much of the year, the Virginia race has been an exercise in mutual annihilation between two unpopular candidates, a dynamic that held up in this poll: Nearly half of likely Virginia voters — 49 percent — have an unfavorable opinion of McAuliffe while 39 percent said they have a favorable opinion.

Mirroring a trend in other recent public polls, Cuccinelli’s favorability numbers are worse: Only 34 percent of voters viewed him favorably, and a 56 percent majority viewed him unfavorably.

Sarvis is largely unknown, and his support could fade from the 12 percent mark before Election Day. Only 43 percent of respondents had an opinion of the third-party candidate with slightly more viewing him unfavorably, at 23 percent, than favorably, 20 percent.

Other numbers from the poll are largely consistent with what we’ve been seeing for the past several weeks. In addition to the fact both candidates have high unfavorable numbers, with Cucinelli’s numbers being slightly higher, there remains a significant gender gap, with McAuliffe beating Cucinelli by double digits among women. The most interesting new factor, though, is the ongoing government shutdown which clearly seems to be hurting Cuccinelli not withstanding his efforts to distance himself from Congressional Republicans in general and Ted Cruz specifically on this issue:

The major curve ball in the Virginia race, however, is the government shutdown, which is now entering its second week and could be expected to have an outsize impact in a state with such a large population of both civilian and military government employees. McAuliffe has led Cuccinelli in the mid-single digits in both public and private polling; his margin is wider in the POLITICO poll, and the shutdown is the most obvious explanation for that.

Both McAuliffe and Cuccinelli have spoken out against the shutdown. The Democrat has run ads tying Cuccinelli to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, the so-called defund Obamacare champion, while Cuccinelli has accused McAuliffe of risking a shutdown in Richmond with his give-no-quarter support for Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act.

They have good reason to run in that direction: A full 62 percent of poll respondents said they oppose the government “shutting down over funding for the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.” Thirty-one percent said they support the shutdown.

Of the Virginia voters who oppose the shutdown, nearly two-thirds — 64 percent — support McAuliffe while 16 percent support Cuccinelli, and 12 percent back Sarvis. Shutdown supporters prefer Cuccinelli over McAuliffe, 73 percent to 10 percent with 11 percent for Sarvis.

National Republicans take the greater share of blame from Virginians for the lights-out moment in Washington: Fifty percent of respondents said they blame Republicans in Congress most for the shutdown while 35 percent said they primarily blame President Barack Obama and Senate Democrats. Fifteen percent of likely voters in the poll said they blame both sides equally.

Democratic and Republican voters largely pin the blame on the other party, but independent voters blame congressional Republicans over Obama and Senate Democrats, 48 percent to 33 percent.

Getting even more specific, Texas Senator Ted Cruz comes out of the poll particularly badly, with 45% of those responding viewing him unfavorably and a mere 26% viewing him favorably.

This new poll gives McAuliffe the biggest lead we’ve seen for either of the candidates so far in this race. Even as he has surged in recent weeks, McAuliffe’s lead has stayed within a 5-7 point range,  regardless of whether we’re talking about polls where only he and Cuccinelli are included or polls that include the two major party candidates and Libertarian nominee Robert Sarvis.  So, it’s unclear at this point whether this poll is an outlier or whether it represents the beginning of a sea change in the race that has been spurred by the government shutdown itself. If it’s the later, though, then this could mean that the race is slipping away from Cuccineli even quicker than it appeared to be and that a continuation of what is quickly becoming a dual shutdown/debt ceiling crisis for much longer could be a real problem for the Virginia GOP going forward.

To be fair, it’s hard to say that all of Cuccinelli’s problems can be blamed on the Government shutdown. He has long been portrayed, with good reason, as far more of an activist on issues of concern to social conservatives than either Governor McDonnell or Lt. Governor Bolling, so he entered the race with a reputation that was guaranteed to be a problem for him in many of Virginia’s most populated areas. Since Labor Day, Virginia Democrats have made sure to remind the public of these facts via a series of television ads that have highlighted some of the past positions that Cuccinelli would, no doubt, rather not discuss at the moment. This, in large part, explains the large, and potentially decisive gender gap in the race. Additionally, Cuccinelli has run a less than stellar campaign so far, something that several commentators on the right here in the Old Dominion are starting to take notice of. At the same time, though the shutdown throws a monkey wrench into this race that could be a game changer. The fact that this is happening while Cuccinelli is quite obviously trying to distance himself from what’s happening just across the Potomac River is, no doubt, frustrating , but that’s what tends to happen when a political party’s brand becomes tainted in the mind of the public.

Looking at the numbers, the RealClearPolitics average shows things continuing to go in McAuliffe’s direction. He holds a 6.0 point average lead in head-to-head polling with Cuccinelli, and a 6.5 point lead in polling that includes the Libertarian Party candidate. With the notable exception of one or two polls, the trend since Labor Day has clearly been in McAuliffe’s favor. We’re not at the point where it makes any sense at all to write off Virginia Republicans this year, though. Typically, turnout in these Gubernatorial election years tends to favor Republicans more than Democrats, for example, so there’s still a chance that Cuccinelli has a chance to pull off a victory here. Given the trends, though, and the fact that the shutdown seems to be hurting the GOP’s image in the minds of GOP voters, though, it would seem pretty clear that it’s time for Virginia Republicans to start worrying.

Update: A new poll from Christopher Newport University [PDF] has the race at McAuliffe 47%, Cuccinelli 38%, Sarvis 8%

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2013, US Politics, , , ,
Doug Mataconis
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. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. OzarkHillbilly says:

    it would seem pretty clear that it’s time for Virginia Republicans to start worrying. –

    Silly me, here I thought it was time for them to worry when they nominated that misogynist a$$.

  2. gVOR08 says:

    Woohoo. Cuccinelli is eight points over the 27% Crazification Factor. So far. Must be a source of pride.

    And the None of the Above Libertarian candidate is doing so well.

  3. Just Me says:

    Has Cucinelli ever been in the lead or close in the polls? Every mention I have seen of this race has Mccaulife in the lead and usually comfortably so-seems like the GOP winning the race has been unlikely anyway. The shutdown seems to affect the ability to close the gap rather than actually pull ahead.

  4. C. Clavin says:
  5. PJ says:

    @Just Me:

    Has Cucinelli ever been in the lead or close in the polls? Every mention I have seen of this race has Mccaulife in the lead and usually comfortably so-seems like the GOP winning the race has been unlikely anyway. The shutdown seems to affect the ability to close the gap rather than actually pull ahead.

    Yes, Cucinelli has been in the lead, last time was back in July.

  6. Dan says:

    Bill Bolling would have done better but I don’t know how much better, since republicans are hell bent on damaging their brand. I heard that the Koch brothers are behind the shutdown. I don’t know how true it is but why would two multi billionaires be against millions of Americans being without health insurance and why would other Americans support them? This is a big puzzle to me.

  7. Gromitt Gunn says:

    Well, the silver lining for the Cooch at this point is that he’s got such a moderate and sane Lt. Gov candidate to go out campaigning with.

    Oh, wait…

  8. cian says:

    I don’t know how true it is but why would two multi billionaires be against millions of Americans being without health insurance and why would other Americans support them?

    You musn’t have heard the new Koch party credo: Govenment of some of the people by some of the people for some of the people.

  9. Facebones says:

    Dems shouldn’t chill champagne just yet. I would expect the race to tighten up as it gets closer to election day. Based on past elections, the relatively high Libertarian poll is just a parking place for Republicans unhappy with having to vote for a wingnut like Cooch. 75% of the “Libertarians” – like blog proprietor James Joyner – will eventually hold their nose and vote like the Republicans they are.

  10. DC Loser says:

    The Dem GOTV machine is already in overdrive. Early voting has already started in Virginia and it’s not all about turnout.

  11. C. Clavin says:

    I’m sure all the Gubmint workers that are furloughed are going to rush right out and vote Republican.

  12. DC Loser says:

    From where I live, I see little enthusiasm for McAuliffe. There is almost no yard signs from his campaign and a few bumper stickers I see on cars. But this is a purple district and I think most Dems will come out to vote against Cuccinelli, not for McAuliffe.

  13. C. Clavin says:

    “…From where I live, I see little enthusiasm for McAuliffe. There is almost no yard signs from his campaign and a few bumper stickers I see on cars…”

    Excuse me for saying…but this is the kind of thing that made Republicans absolutely sure Romney was going to win in a landslide. I’m pretty sure that senile ol’ biddy, Peggy Noonan, wrote something very similar.

  14. Moosebreath says:

    @Dan:

    “I don’t know how true it is but why would two multi billionaires be against millions of Americans being without health insurance and why would other Americans support them? This is a big puzzle to me.”

    The Koch’s are against Obamacare because:
    a. it gives people a belief that government can do something to make their lives better, rather than having the people beg the “job creators” to be their lords and masters in exchange for being able to afford the necessities of life.
    b. it increases their taxes.

    Why people support the Koch’s, even though it is against their financial interest, is another question, and I’d suggest reading What’s the Matter with Kansas as a start to understanding it.

  15. @Dan:

    I heard that the Koch brothers are behind the shutdown.

    The Koch Brothers have become to the Democrat party what George Soros is to the Republican party. And ever present boogey man who is secretly behind everything bad that ever happens to you, even if there’s no real explanation of how they are supposed to be benefiting from it. They do it just for the evulz.

  16. grumpy realist says:

    @C. Clavin: OT, but has Peggy Noonan EVER written an editorial where she doesn’t praise Reagan to the skies?

    Necrophilic old bat is how I would describe her.

  17. gVOR08 says:

    @Dan:

    why would two multi billionaires be against millions of Americans being without health insurance and why would other Americans support them –

    I assume you meant “getting health insurance”. And I don’t know why either, but they do. And that’s current politics in a nutshell.

    I hope the Establishment Press start reporting the level of effort and the pile of money the Koch bros apparently put into planning and executing this shut down starting in January. But it would somehow still be equally Obama’s fault.

  18. CSK says:

    Gee, according to the fringe right website commentators, Cuccinelli is going to lose because he’s a RINO traitor squish for not siding with Cruz. If only he were truly conservative, he’d win in a landslide.

    Well, that’s their current delusion anyway.

  19. wr says:

    @Stormy Dragon: “The Koch Brothers have become to the Democrat party what George Soros is to the Republican party. And ever present boogey man who is secretly behind everything bad that ever happens to you, even if there’s no real explanation of how they are supposed to be benefiting from it”

    Except, of course, that the NY Times ran a fairly devestating article last week about how the the right-wing power brokers specifically funded by the Kochs (and working with Ed Meese, of all people) specifically planned this shutdown. Here’s a Fox cite of the article: http://radio.foxnews.com/2013/10/06/government-shutdown-was-planned-for-months-by-ed-meese-koch-bros/

    “Both side do it” must make some people just feel so satisfied in their moral superiority. But if you can only state this by ignoring every fact out there, you are not the solution, you are the problem.

  20. DC Loser says:

    according to the fringe right website commentators, Cuccinelli is going to lose because he’s a RINO traitor squish for not siding with Cruz. If only he were truly conservative, he’d win in a landslide.

    By that logic, E.W. Jackson should win the Lt Gov office by a landslide. Let’s see how they explain when he loses. Jackson is an unapologetic Tea Party fanatic.

  21. rudderpedals says:

    For a House GOPer there’d be good money in selling treasuries short and voting for a default. That would be perfectly legal if I understand the Court’s (non)take on “Honest Services”.

  22. Paul says:

    I voted for Webb, Kaine (twice), and Warner. I would have voted for Bolling over McAuliffe. Trying to decide between Sarvis (to express unhappiness and he seems sane) or McA (because Cucc. would be damaging).

  23. rudderpedals says:

    @Paul: Florida’s Ralph Nader 2000 voters thoroughly regretted their 3rd party choice…

  24. CSK says:

    @DC Loser:

    That’s my point. To any rational person, Jackson’s a drag on the ticket. But I’m talking about the kind of person who thinks that Romney lost last November because he was too left wing.

  25. gVOR08 says:
  26. DC Loser says:

    @CSK

    How’re they gonna ‘splain Jackson’s loss? He’s not crazy enough??? They need someone even more hardline?????

  27. Pharoah Narim says:

    @Dan: Let me explain. There is a segment of the population….most often super rich that believe that money is equal to virtue. So helping the unvirtuous is…well…immoral. There is is a second part of the population that also believe this. This segment believes that by helping the virtuous super rich in exchange for crumb off their table…they too are doing the honorable thing.

  28. Paul says:

    I don’t think the Bush/Gore analogy holds. Green voters for Nader felt there was little difference between the candidates. I think they were mistaken, but that’s beside the point. When it comes to VA, there’s vast political differences between the two. We have a choice between a political operative with dubious ability and an ideologue.

    There is a different historical precedent: the 1992 election. There was plenty of tactical voting for Perot to send a message about deficits. Mind you, the election didn’t quite turn out the way Perot voters may have thought. In subsequent discussions, they were found to have voted twice. Republicans claimed they voted against Clinton and Democrats claimed they voted against Bush.

    @rudderpedals:

  29. rudderpedals says:

    @Paul: Good point. I’d completely forgotten Perot but shouldn’t have. Standing on the line to vote in the reddest of red deep south everyone around me was talking about Perot Perot Perot. Much disappointment was to be had.

  30. CSK says:

    @DC Loser:

    Oh, that’s easy. They’ll do what they did with Christine O’Donnell–blame her landslide loss on that notorious left-winger John Cornyn for refusing to give her money for her campaign, not that she was crazier than an outhouse rat.