Poll: Terry McAuliffe pulls ahead of Ken Cuccinelli in race for Va. governor

Democrat Terry McAuliffe has pulled slightly ahead of Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II in the race for Virginia governor, according to a poll released Thursday.

The Quinnipiac University poll shows the former Democratic National Committee chairman getting support from 43 percent of voters while Cuccinelli has 38 percent.

A recent Washington Post survey had Cuccinelli up narrowly among registered voters, 46 to 41 percent, and ahead 51 to 41 percent among likely voters.

Quinnipiac polls since late last year had the race essentially tied. The most recent, a March 27 survey, found Cuccinelli had the support of 40 percent of voters to McAuliffe’s 38 percent.

“The governor’s race remains tight and could well go all the way to November as a close contest,” said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. “The 17 percent of voters who say they are undecided will determine the Commonwealth’s next governor. At this point neither man seems to have much of an edge. “

Quinnipiac also took an early look at the 2016 presidential race, finding that former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton and U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner would easily carry Virginia over likely GOP candidates.

In the governor’s race, the poll indicated that McAuliffe and Cuccinelli remain unknowns to many Virginians, even though McAuliffe ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination four years ago and Cuccinelli has held statewide office since 2010.

Twenty-two percent of voters have a favorable opinion of McAuliffe and 17 percent view him unfavorably, while 60 percent don’t know enough about him to have an opinion, the survey found. Thirty-one percent have a positive view of Cuccinelli and 24 percent view him negatively.

“At this point, neither candidate sets the electorate’s heart atwitter,” Brown said. “But we are starting to see the beginning of the television advertising campaign by the two candidates, and presumably those ads will begin to introduce the candidates to the voters.”

Forty-seven percent of voters approve of Cuccinelli’s job performance as attorney general and 30 percent disapprove, according to the poll. By a margin of 45 to 25 percent, they say he has the right experience to be governor. Thirty-one percent of voters say McAuliffe has the right experience, and 26 percent say he does not.

In the presidential race, the survey finds that Clinton has a 51 to 38 percent edge over U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and a 50 to 40 percent advantage over U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the 2012 GOP vice presidential candidate.

Voters favor Warner by 51 to 33 percent over Rubio, and 50 to 37 percent over Ryan.

From May 8 to 13, Quinnipiac surveyed 1,286 registered voters on land lines and cellphones. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.7 percentage points.

Laura Vozzella covers Virginia politics for The Washington Post.
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