McAuliffe Still Leading In Virginia Polls, Cuccinelli Scaling Back Ad Buys?

The Virginia Governor's race may be slipping too far for Republicans to pull off a victory.

Cuccinelli McAuliffe

Another new poll out today shows Terry McAuliffe maintaining a consistent lead over Ken Cuccinelli in the Virginia Governor’s race:

Virginia gubernatorial hopeful Terry McAuliffe has widened his lead over his Republican challenger Ken Cuccinelli in a new poll that puts him up 8 points.

The Democrat led the Virginia attorney general 47 percent to 39 percent in a Quinnipiac poll of likely voters out Thursday. In September, Quinnipiac found McAuliffe leading 44 percent to 41 percent.

Libertarian candidate Robert Sarvis got 8 percent of the support.

McAuliffe continues to have big leads among women and minorities, while Cuccinelli leads by slimmer margins among men and white voters.

Asked which candidate would do a better job on a variety of issues, McAuliffe led Cuccinelli in the voters’ mind on issues concerning women, abortion, energy and the environment, health care, education, government ethics and the economy. Cucinelli led on taxes.

With these new numbers, McAuliffe’s lead over Cuccinelli in the RealClearPolitics poll average is now at +6.3 points in a head-to-head matchup with Cuccinelli, and a +6.7 point lead when Libertarian candidate Robert Sarvis is included in polling. Additionally, McAuliffe’s numbers have been consistently trending upward over the past six weeks, while Cuccinelli’s have been relatively flat at the same level they were at for much of the summer. Sarvis’s numbers have also trended upwards, but at a much slower pace than McAuliffe. It’s important to note, though, that this doesn’t mean the race is over, though. Based on the RCP averages, more than 15% of voters remain undecided in a McAuliffe-Cuccinelli race. That number slips down to just under 10% if Sarvis is included in the polling. It’s still possible, therefore, that Cuccinelli could find a way to make up for lost ground, especially if he can find a way to attract a sizable number of those undecided voters and/or some portion of the people saying that they are supporting Sarvis. Granted, this seems unlikely at the moment given Cuccinelli’s high negatives, especially among female voters, but it’s not mathematically impossible. Additionally, it’s worth noting that much of what happens on Election Day depends upon turnout. The more turnout matches what Virginia saw in 2008 and 2012, the better for McAuliffe, the more it matches 2009 and 2011, the better for Cuccinelli.

Rosy scenarios aside, it’s rather obvious that the Cuccinelli campaign is troubled, and it’s beginning to show itself financially:

Ken Cuccinelli is getting crushed on the Virginia airwaves, and it’s probably only going to get worse – a major factor thwarting the Republican’s hopes of a comeback in a governor’s race that’s been slipping away.

The left has spent $7.5 million more on television than the right up to this point, according to sources tracking the air war. The totals are $20.2 million from Democrats and affiliated outside groups to $12.7 million from the Republicans and their allies.

The attorney general is himself a relatively weak fundraiser who never adequately cultivated the major donors he needed in the business community. He’s also running against former Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe, one of the most prolific fundraisers in modern political history.

A string of polls showing Cuccinelli trailing — including a POLITICO poll conducted over the weekend that had him down by 9 points — has only made it harder to raise cash, while deterring some outside groups from spending as much as they might have in the year’s marquee contest.

The result is that Cuccinelli’s campaign has been making smaller and smaller ad buys over the past three weeks. He spent $1.2 million on broadcast in the final week of September, $716,000 last week and reserved $685,000 for this week.

His campaign did not dispute that it has been cutting the size of their buys.

“Terry McAuliffe became famous for one thing and one thing only: raising dough,” said communications director Richard Cullen. “We never planned a campaign where we would be competing with him dollar for dollar, but there’s no question we will have the resources necessary to win on Nov. 5.”

McAuliffe has already reserved about $2 million in airtime over the final four weeks, while Cuccinelli has not reserved any time past this week. The Democrats, for instance, claimed $700,000 of choice broadcast airtime for the final week of the race in the state’s four largest markets, according to the Virginia Public Access Project. Cuccinelli operatives note that they have placed their buys on a week-to-week basis since April.

Cuccinelli is getting assistance from outside groups such as the Republican Governor’s Association, but he’s clearly getting beaten on the airwaves, especially up here in Northern Virginia. Whether this is a sign that donations are starting to slack off is unclear, but it certainly doesn’t seem like a good sign.

Meanwhile, there was a kerfuffle in the race yesterday when it was reported that Democratic nominee Terry McAuliffe was tied to a medical fraud case arising out of Rhode Island, and that he had allegedly lied to Federal investigators about his role in the matter. The McAuliffe campaign denied that report immediately and quite vociferously and, ultimately, the Associated Press, which was the original source for the report, was forced to retract its claims before the evening was over. While it does appear that McAuliffe may have been one of the investors in the firm in question in the Rhode Island case, it’s unclear that he had any knowledge about what was going on. At this point, it’s unclear that this story will have any real impact on the race, although the Cuccinelli campaign was quick to jump upon it.   Additionally, given the fact that the claims about McAuliffe lying to law enforcement has been retracted, and quickly at that, though, one has to imagine that the impact of this report will be very small indeed unless it really does turn out that there’s something there that would harm McAuliffe.

At the moment, then, this is clearly Terry McAuliffe’s race and, absent some kind of major story that turns things around for Cuccinelli soon, it’s going to be difficult for him to keep the Governor’s mansion in Republican hands in November.

FILED UNDER: 2013 Election, Environment, Public Opinion Polls, 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. Mikey says:

    Cuccinelli didn’t have much of a chance from the beginning. His social conservatism turns off a lot of voters in Northern Virginia–the state’s most populous area–and the nomination of E. W. Jackson for lieutenant governor certainly doesn’t help. The current government “shutdown,” which impacts Northern Virginia pretty heavily, and for which Cuccinelli’s party is getting most of the blame, has hurt him even more despite his efforts to distance himself.

    This is just the next step in an entirely predictable progression. He’s going to get whomped on Election Day.

  2. @Mikey: Huh? Cuccinelli was winning back in April. He started to lose points when the ongoing StarScentifiic (corruption) scandal involving McDonnell and Cuccinelli started to get a lot of news attention.

    And as much as I dislike E.W. Jackson, hardly anyone knows who he is right now. And E.W. Jackson’s challenger, Ralph Northam, is ahead in the polls right now by a smaller margin than McAuliffe.

    But I do agree that the shutdown is killing Cuccinelli, and being bestest buds with Ted Cruz is just an extra burden.

  3. wr says:

    @Timothy Watson: “Huh? Cuccinelli was winning back in April”

    You have to understand, now that Cuccinelli is losing, “real conservatives” have to find any way to distance themselves from him. Three days after his humilitating loss, you’ll start to see Tea Partiers announcing that he lost because he wasn’t conservative enough for Virginia, and only if they’d nominated a real conservative they would have won in a landslide.

  4. Mikey says:

    @wr: I’m not a conservative, “true” or otherwise. I’ll be quite happy to see Cuccinelli lose.

  5. Mikey says:

    @Timothy Watson: Well, in my defense, I wasn’t paying much attention before the StarScientific thing started breaking. I thought the best Cuccinelli had been able to manage over the duration of the race was a statistical tie.

  6. @wr: The “true conservative would have won” thing has been a running joke between me and my mom for awhile now. 🙂

  7. CSK says:


    They’re already calling Cuccinelli a spineless RINO squish for trying to distance himself from Cruz and the shutdown. So, yes–when he loses, the rationale will be that he wasn’t conservative enough.

  8. gVOR08 says:

    The left has spent $7.5 million more on television than the right

    I don’t expect any better from POLITICO, and I don’t know anything about McCauliffe’s personal politics; but I wish the Establishment press would quit doing this. Is it not clear that by any historical standards Democrats v/ Republicans is now center v/ right? Unless you arbitrarily define the center as today’s average between the two, updated daily, there is effectively no left in this country anymore.

    Are there not studies showing Obama to the RIGHT of Richard Nixon?

    Yesterday Steven Taylor wrote

    One of the basic tenets of conservative political thought is that change should be incremental and another is that the unintended consequences of governmental actions should be a major concern for policymakers.

    By that standard are Democrats not the current conservative party?

  9. michael reynolds says:

    Dear Tea Party:

    Thank you so much for your gift of Virginia. We will always treasure it and count its electoral votes as reliable.

    Now, let’s talk about North Carolina. Because that’s what you’re going to give us next.

  10. DC Loser says:

    McAuliffe campaign is now running ads of “conservative” Republicans backing him, including the mayor of Virginia Beach. It’s not over for sure, but the fat lady is getting ready to come on stage.

  11. the Q says:

    As someone who has voted Dem since Stevenson, let me tell you that Terry McAuliffe is one of the biggest pieces of schitt on the planet. Pure scumbag.

    The Dems have nothing to offer the working and middle class anymore,

    McAuliffe is a Clinton Wall Street hack who benefited mightily by using his contacts and unethical business dealings to simultaneoulsy enrich himself and impoverish the employees at Global Crossing.

    I crossed his path on several occasions in LA while he was doing his damage, and trust me, this guy is a deranged derelict.

    Or in other words, the current face of the sold out souless Dem Party.

  12. pylon says:

    With the amount of federal employment in Va, I’d imagine the shutdown is not helping the Repub cause. I don’t blame Cooch for trying to distance himself. And I don’t pity him at all.

  13. stonetools says:

    @the Q:

    McAuliffe is a Clinton Wall Street hack who benefited mightily by using his contacts and unethical business dealings to simultaneoulsy enrich himself and impoverish the employees at Global Crossing.

    I crossed his path on several occasions in LA while he was doing his damage, and trust me, this guy is a deranged derelict.

    Or in other words, the current face of the sold out souless Dem Party

    This may be all true. But that still makes him better than Cuccinelli, by a country mile .At least Governor MacAuliffe won’t be requiring abused teenagers to carry their pregnancies to term like they do in Nebraska, forcing abortion clinics to close like in Mississippi, or requiring that doctors insert glass wands up women’s veejays for no good reason , like what almost happened under “moderate” Governor McDonnell , here in Virginia. And he’ll work to implement the ACA.
    Faced with that choice, I will be happily stumping for TM this fall. It’s time for liberals to start voting strategically, and stop waiting for Candidate Unicorn. In short, Macauliffe may be a sonafabitch but by God, he’s our sonafabitch.

  14. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @the Q:

    The Dems have nothing to offer the working and middle class anymore,

    Spoken like a true Republican.

  15. michael reynolds says:

    @the Q:

    Yeah, aside from equal pay for working women, health care that can’t be canceled as soon as you get sick, a new consumer financial protection bureau and our endless push for better minimum wage and safety in the workplace, yeah, nothing for working people. Best go talk to the Republicans whose plan for the working people is, and I quote, “F U.”

  16. David M says:

    @the Q:

    Have you met today’s GOP? Because if you have, then choosing McAuliffe over any GOP candidate shouldn’t be a difficult decision, no matter how slimy he may be.

  17. Gromitt Gunn says:

    @stonetools: There you go, invoking the wrath of the Firebagger Purity Patrol again! 😉

  18. the Q says:

    You guys are missing the point. The Repubs are vermin. And I have never voted GOP ever.

    BUT, you folks are blinded by loyalty to a nutjob just because he’s got a D in front of his name.

    Its like, yes Stalin is despicable, but Hitler is worse so we gotta side with Stalin, I get that.

    Just don’t let the policy differences of the party obfuscate the total shortcomings of the candidate.

    For one nanosecond, I had empathy for what Jenos must go through on a regular basis.

  19. grumpy realist says:

    @the Q: What we’re saying is that they’re both sleazy, but one of them is sleazy AND a nutjob.

    This really is a case where it’s a vote for the lesser of the two evils. Don’t read any more into it than that.

  20. the Q says:

    PS, I guess you missed how under the Dems, poverty rates, income distribution, wars, defense spending have pretty much emulated Bush.

    Like I said, the Dems are a wussified watered down baby boomer sell out version of the Dem party of the 30s – 70s as boomer Presidents Clinton, Obama, the DLC have corrupted the old hard core values which radically altered this country.

    As for Reynolds’ remarks, what about NAFTA, CAFTA, the WTO, the upcoming TPP, the recently negotiated trade treaty which doubled our trade deficit with Korea , the repeal of Glass Steagall at the instigation of Robert Rubin. I could go on and on.

    Don’t lecture me about what being a democrat is all about or about how the middle/working class has been ratphucked by BOTH parties.

  21. David M says:

    @the Q:

    Pretty sure the Hitler/Stalin comparisons are a bit extreme even for McAullife and Cuccinelli. Maybe Mussolini though…

    And the D / R isn’t a trivial difference. The actual policies are what’s important, why should voters evaluate candidates separately from that?

  22. the Q says:

    D/R is getting to be a trivial difference is it not?

    My grandfather would always tell me sternly when I was a little boy, “just remember, the Republicans are for the rich and the Democrats are for the working class.”

    This was the 30s.

    Can I say that now?

    With a guy like McAuliffe running and the nightmare of a Hillary candidacy looming on the 2016 horizon?

  23. David M says:

    @the Q:

    The choice isn’t between McAullife and your ideal candidate. It’s between McAullife and Cuccinelli, the Republican.

    The choice isn’t between Obamacare and single payer, it’s between Obamacare with the Medicaid expansion and Obamacare with no Medicaid expansion.

  24. rudderpedals says:

    The Q sounds just like my conscience. He’s right you know.

  25. humanoid.panda says:

    Maybe it’s time to knock it off with the New Deal nostalgia? The Q, I am sure your grandfather was a wonderful man, but I am guessing he was not part of the contingent of “the poor” that were not maliciously and on purpose excluded from the benefits of the New Deal- African Americans. Did this mean that Democrats back in the day were horrible people and current day Democrats are angels? No, because both then and now, the Democratic party is a coalition party, including both progressives and conservatives, a party that operates within a political system with a serious status quo bias, and last but not least, a party that is led by human beings, not by cherubs. \
    Oh and by the way, as much T-Mac might be a sleaze ball, I can personally assure you that he is a piker next to LBJ: a corrupt, racist, thieving friend of some of the most of the horrible people in America, who also happened, domestically, to be the greatest president of the 20th century from a progressive standpoint.

  26. Xenos says:

    @the Q: As a Democrat, this is the sort of thing that enrages me about the GOP: Why can’t you tamp down the reactionary craziness and reckless revanchism long enough to beat a truly awful Democrat like McAuliffe? What good are you people when you empower the worst not just in your own party, but also in mine?

  27. David M says:

    Thinking McAuliffe could win the election is mind blowing, as there are few if any Democrats I’d willingly pick him over. I don’t think anyone is saying people shouldn’t feel like they need a shower after voting for him either.

    I have mixed feelings knowing he can win an election over a credible GOP candidate. Sad that the GOP as a whole is so far gone that he is an easy choice, mildly optimistic that the voters look to be recognizing the same fact.

  28. DrDaveT says:

    @the Q: the Q has it right, but it won’t help Cuccinelli.

    I’m a Virginia voter. I have to hold my nose and take Pepto Bismol to vote for McAuliffe, but his loathsome slime is less dangerous to Virginians than Cuccinelli’s True Belief.