Put A Fork In Ken Cuccinelli, He’s Done

There's still a week to go in Virginia's Governor's race, but it's clear that this race is effectively over.


With just over a week to go until polls open to select Virginia’s next Governor, a new Washington Post poll shows Democrat Terry McAuliffe with a double digit lead over Republican Ken Cuccinelli, while libertarian Robert Sarvis continues to draw nearly 10% support:

Democrat Terry McAuliffe has opened a double-digit lead over Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II in the race for Virginia governor, capturing increasing dissatisfaction among voters with Cuccinelli’s party and his conservative views.

According to a new Washington Post-Abt SRBI poll, McAuliffe tops Cuccinelli 51 percent to 39 percent among likely voters in next Tuesday’s election. McAuliffe led by eight points in a poll taken in September. Libertarian Robert Sarvis, who has capitalized on voter unrest with the two major party candidates, is at 8 percent, according to the new poll.

The margin between the two candidates is driven by a huge gender gap. Among men, the two candidates are running even, with Cuccinelli at 45 percent and McAuliffe at 44 percent. But among women, Cuccinelli trails by 24 points — 58 percent to 34 percent.

McAuliffe’s substantial lead puts him in a position to break a long pattern in Virginia gubernatorial races. In the nine most recent elections, the party holding the White House has lost the governor’s race. Cuccinelli’s weaknesses, more than McAuliffe’s strengths, put that streak in jeopardy, according one question in the poll.

Among those supporting the Democrat, 64 percent say they are voting against Cuccinelli rather than for McAuliffe. Meanwhile, among the attorney general’s supporters, 50 percent say they are casting a positive vote for the candidate while 44 percent say they are voting against McAuliffe.

McAuliffe’s strong position also could boost Democrats’ chances of sweeping statewide offices for the first time in a quarter-century — and make substantial gains in the GOP-dominated House of Delegates. According to the poll, the race for lieutenant governor is equally lopsided for the Democrat, while the Democratic candidate for attorney general is just three points ahead of the Republican — within the margin of error.

Also present in the poll are the same negative opinions about Cuccinelli that we’ve seen in pretty much every poll since Labor Day:

In the poll, more than half the likely electorate (54 percent) say Cuccinelli’s views on most issues are too conservative, while only 36 percent say his views are “just about right.” McAuliffe’s ideology, in contrast, is viewed as about right by 50 percent of likely voters, while 40 percent say he is too liberal.

A week before the election, 58 percent of likely voters now have an unfavorable view of Cuccinelli, while 41 percent view him favorably. Negative perceptions have jumped six points in a month. In contrast, 53 percent of likely voters view McAuliffe favorably, with 44 percent holding an unfavorable impression. The Democrat’s numbers have held steady over the past month.

Rebecca Fisher, 64, of Toms Brook, was among those who said theirs would be a hold-your-nose vote.

“I am not a fan of Terry McAuliffe. I think he’s kind of a lightweight,” said Fisher, a retired elder care executive who nevertheless plans to push the button for the Democrat. “I would have preferred a stronger candidate, but if he’s the only Democrat, he gets my vote. … The devil himself would be better on women’s issues than Ken Cuccinelli.”

Cuccinelli’s problems have been compounded by the fallout from the government shutdown. The Republican Party’s image has reached record lows in several national polls, and the new survey of Virginia voters confirms those trends.

The survey found that 65 percent of likely voters have an unfavorable view of the national Republican Party and 57 percent look unfavorably on the Virginia GOP. Meanwhile, bare majorities of voters say they see both the national and Virginia Democratic Party favorably.

There has been a rapid deterioration in the national Republican Party’s image among Virginians. In a May survey, the margin between positive and negative views of the national GOP was minus 18 points. Today it is minus 33 points.

This is the second poll in a week to show McAuliffe with a double digit lead in the race. Last week, a new Rasmussen poll showed the Democratic nominee with a 17 point lead, although that poll was brought somewhat into question by a Quinnipiac poll just a few days later that showed McAuliffe up by the slightly more consistent with recent polling eight percentage points. Whatever the margin, though, it is quite apparent that Cuccinelli has not only failed to make any progress on closing the gap between himself and McAuliffe in the final ten days of the campaign, but that he’s actually falling further behind. The impact of this can be seen in the down ballot races, where Democrat Ralph Northam is leading Republican E.W. Jackson Jr. 52% to 39% in the Lt. Governor’s race and Democrat Mark Herring is beating Republican Mark Obenshain 49% to 46% in the Attorney General’s race.

Among the other interesting facts that can be found in the poll are these:

  • While McAuliffe gets the support of 94% of self-identified Democrats, Cuccinelli only gets the support of 85% of self-identified Republicans while 7% of that group says they support McAuliffe and 6% say they support Sarvis;
  • McAuliffe now leads among Independent voters 47% to 36% with 15% backing Sarvis;
  • Among Sarvis supporters, 53% say they’d support McAuliffe if Sarvis were not in the race while 42% say they’d vote for Cuccinelli;
  • Cuccinelli’s “Strongly Unfavorable” number (43%) is nearly twice as high as McAuliffe’s (24%); and,
  • Among Registered voters, 82% disapprove of the Government Shutdown, including 68% of self-identified Republicans

Factoring these numbers into the RealClearPolitics numbers leads to predictable numbers. In a strictly head-to-head matchup against Cuccinelli, McAuliffe has an average lead of +9.9 points and he has a +9.6 point lead when Sarvis is factored into the race. In other words, the gap between McAuliffe and Cuccinelli is growing, not shrinking, and time is running out for the Republican. On some level, this is entirely unsurprising. Cuccinelli’s socially conservative record has been well-known in Virginia for years now, and Democrats have had the better part of four years to prepare the ground for what looked like an inevitable Cuccinelli run for the top spot in the state, whether it were to have occurred this year or in 2017. Add in the fact that Cuccinelli has been vastly outspent in media buys in this race and the result seems rather inevitable.

What’s amusing now is to see how Cuccinelli supporters are reacting to the bad news over the past several weeks. There has been a rather concerted and obvious effort on the part of the campaign to go after Robert Sarvis and his supporters both by bringing in people like Rand Paul to campaign for Cuccinelli and by peppering social media and the blogosphere with what can only be described as rather lame attempts to question Sarvis’s libertarian bona fides. Missing from their rhetoric, though, has been any real articulation of a reason that people who have hung with the Libertarian candidate throughout this race to vote for Cuccinelli. Now, it’s entirely possible that Sarvis’s numbers in the polls will not hold up when Election Day comes around and that he’ll end up with something closer to 3-5% of the vote instead of something in the range of 10%, a magic number that would give the Libertarian Party a ballot line in Virginia for at least the next four years. However, given the poll results here, that show that Sarvis supporters would be more likely to vote for McAuliffe than Cuccinelli, it seems unlikely that any peeling away from Sarvis will help the Republicans. Indeed, that number suggests that no small part of Sarvis’s support comes from disaffected Virginia Republicans annoyed with their party’s tilt to the right with the Cuccinelli and Jackson nominations.

Whatever happens to the Sarvis numbers, though, it’s pretty apparent now that this race is pretty much over. McAuliffe is going to win, the only question is by how much.

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. Stonetools says:

    My bet as the final split: Macauliffe53, Cuccinelli 42 Jarvis five.

    Also too, Herring has opened up a three point lead over Obenshain in the Atty. Gen.’s race.

    Looks like it may be a democratic sweep!

  2. Stonetools says:

    One thing is clear: Virginia women do not like the idea of a bunch of men taking away their reproductive rights. The Democrat leads the Republican among women by 24 points.

  3. Mikey says:

    Herring’s slim lead over Obenshain is a bit worrisome. Obenshain would be Cuccinelli 2.0 on women’s issues if elected as AG.

  4. C. Clavin says:

    capturing increasing dissatisfaction among voters with Cuccinelli’s party and his conservative views.

    There’s nothing Conservative about Cooch… Like the rest of the Tea Baggers he’s a radical extremist.

  5. David M says:

    If only Cuccinelli was just a little more pro-life, then he really could have challenged McAulliffe.

  6. Gustopher says:

    I’m sure it is just a coincidence that women favor the Democrat in Virginia by 24% and Texas has a voter id law that makes it harder for women to vote…

    Clearly, these are entirely different states — there are no broader lessons that we can or should apply.

  7. michael reynolds says:

    Yes, but aside from women, blacks, latinos, gays, the college-educated and the young, Republicans are doing great.

    The problem is obvious: Cuccinelli is a RINO. He is not really right-wing enough. The party needs Mussolini.

  8. David M says:


    I’m sure it is just a coincidence that women favor the Democrat in Virginia by 24% and Texas has a voter id law that makes it harder for women to vote…

    I don’t think that actually carries through, as the Texas law could make it more difficult for GOP leaning women to vote as well. (Married and took their husband’s last name.)

    Of course that doesn’t make the Texas law any less repugnant as I don’t believe in disenfranchising anyone, even the voter groups I disagree with.

  9. wr says:

    Gosh, you mean you can run on a platform of “I get to ram a metal rod up the vaginas of any women who don’t meet my standards of purity” and you won’t get the women’s vote? What’s wrong with all those sluts in Virginia? Don’t they understand that he knows what’s good for them and they don’t?

    Clearly there’s only one answer. After we take away the right of direct election of senators, we have to go back to the good old days of only letting propertied white men vote.

  10. anjin-san says:

    When is bithead going to show up and assure us a GOP comeback victory is right around the corner?

  11. Dave D says:

    @michael reynolds: You forgot “Asians” as they went for Obama by a wider margin than Latinos. All of this in the face of their earning power.

  12. Dave D says:

    @anjin-san: I need someone to unskew these polls for me.

  13. JoshB says:

    EW Jackson is just losing because democrats are the true racists. /snark

  14. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @JoshB: All this time I thought it was because anybody named EWwwww has to be icky.

  15. Snarky Bastard says:

    @michael reynolds: Mussolini liked trains — can’t have that Northeastern urban RINO run the party.

  16. Boyd says:

    Aaaaand, the ultra-conservatives will blithely ignore this data point the next time a somewhat moderate Republican loses, “because he wasn’t conservative enough.”

    Unrelated but interesting note: autocorrect tried to change the first word of my comment to “Assassins.”

  17. gVOR08 says:

    @Boyd: I got a resume a couple days ago from a young gentlemen who said he had “assisted a seasoned service reprehensive”.

  18. grumpy realist says:

    @gVOR08: Do you think we’re getting a Mrs. Malapropism or are we seeing stupid auto-correction with no editing afterwards (a reason by itself not to hire him IMHO)?

    One reason why I absolutely HAAAATE autocorrect. I grudgingly put up with it because it seems to be the best way to fix twiddle errors, but sheesh, the stuff it tries to inflict me with.

  19. george says:

    @michael reynolds:

    The party needs Mussolini.

    I think he’d be called a RINO – for instance, he put tax money into building public health clinics, and if I recall correctly, public health in general. Not nearly right wing enough to be a True Conservative (patent pending).

    Basically, if it helps people, or leads to people having fun (ie the Tea Party doesn’t mind people having sex so much as they mind people enjoying sex), it has no place in the modern GOP.

    Or how does that joke go? Why are fundamentalists against sex? Because they fear it will lead to dancing.

  20. CSK says:

    @michael reynolds:

    That’s already being posited as the explanation for his upcoming loss–he wasn’t sufficiently conservative on social issues.