September 24, 2013

I can’t say I’m surprised at all by The Post-Abt SRBI poll showing Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe leading Republican candidate Ken Cuccinelli II by 8 points (47 percent to 39 percent among likely voters) in the Virginia governor’s race. While a couple of polls recently showed the race had narrowed, it sure didn’t feel like Cuccinelli had changed the dynamic in the race in his favor. Nor is it surprising that 10 percent of voters now say, if explicitly asked about him, they favor libertarian Robert Sarvis; voters don’t like either major party candidate very much and will, at least in polls, grab onto an alternative.


Terry McAuliffe (Steve Helber/Associated Press)

Without Sarvis in the race McAuliffe still leads, but by only five points. Sarvis may be draining votes from Cuccinelli, but on election day it’s not clear whether they will stick with Sarvis, stay home or slide into Cuccinelli’s column.

McAuliffe – as one would expect after seeing the airwaves in Northern Virginia bombarded with anti-Cuccinelli ads on abortion, contraception, and divorce – is trouncing Cuccinelli among women by 24 percent. Cuccinelli has never substantively responded to the attacks, nor has he given women voters any assurance that he would keep Virginia’s laws on these topics essentially the same.

Either oblivious or unwilling to modify his positions, Cuccinelli finds himself in an almost impossible situation: a huge deficit among women, non-white voters (losing by an astounding 84 to 3 percent) and in voter-rich Northern Virginia (by 17 points). By contrast, in 2009 now Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) won the women’s vote by 8 points and won every Northern Virginia county. Interestingly, McDonnell’s positions on many issues didn’t differ from Cuccinelli’s but his focus on bread and butter issues, his demeanor and his disciplined campaign were in stark contrast to Cuccinelli’s campaign.

Moreover, Cuccinelli’s attacks on McAuliffe for his GreenTech dealings seem to have been largely wasted. On the question of which candidate is more honest and trustworthy McAuliffe leads by 34 to 28 percent. (Think about how hard it must be to be less trustworthy and honest than the candidate identified as a too-slick-by-half moneyman and deal-maker.) On GreenTech specifically 53 percent say it wouldn’t affect their vote, comparable to the 58 percent who say the Star Scientific flap won’t affect their vote on Cuccinelli. The scandals seem to have cancelled each other out. For a GOP campaign built largely on making McAuliffe out to be a sleazy businessman this is a problem for Cuccinelli.

An NBC/Marist poll has very similar results, with McAuliffe leading by 5 percent and Sarvis getting 8 percent. There too McAuliffe has a huge lead among women, and “34 percent of registered voters view Cuccinelli favorably, while 47 percent say they have an unfavorable impression of him. . . . McAuliffe, on the other hand, is on the positive side – 41 favorable, 34 percent negative.”

The race was widely seen as one in which the lesser of two evils would win. Right now that is McAuliffe, who is viewed favorably by a margin of 48 to 36 percent . Cuccinelli is still underwater with a 40 percent favorable/ 47percent unfavorable rating. You can’t win if people like you less than the other guy. Unless Cuccinelli turns that around, he’ll lose.

Jennifer Rubin writes the Right Turn blog for The Post, offering reported opinion from a conservative perspective.