McAuliffe has spent some time tending to his own base. Former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton hosted a packed rally for the former Democratic National Committee chairman in Falls Church on Saturday, and former president Bill Clinton will accompany McAuliffe on a multi-day swing, beginning Sunday, that will include several stops in college towns and other heavily Democratic areas.
But the comparison may end there: Despite a long history as a polarizing figure, Bill Clinton appears to have gained at least some popularity across party lines: A 2012 CBS/New York Times/Quinnipiac poll found that 67 percent of Virginia’s likely voters — and 67 percent of independents — had a favorable opinion of Bill Clinton.
A Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday revealed why Cuccinelli may need to shore up his right flank. The survey shows Cuccinelli attracting the support of 81 percent of likely GOP voters, while McAuliffe is backed by 92 percent of Democrats. Sarvis earned the support 11 percent of Republicans and 2 percent of Democrats, according to the poll.
Numbers aside, some Republicans see a glimmer of hope in predictions of exceedingly low turnout on Election Day — in part because the race has been so negative. Maximizing the base vote will be more important than usual, meaning that appeals to the broad middle are less useful if those people decide to skip voting.
That thinking is evident on the airwaves, where Cuccinelli has shifted his focus away from advertising in moderate Northern Virginia. According to data from the ad-tracking firm Kantar Media, in the two weeks ending Sunday, Cuccinelli devoted 46 percent of his total ad spending to the pricey and populous Washington market. That’s down from 63 percent the previous month.
Cuccinelli’s latest ad says McAuliffe plans to sharply increase spending and will raise taxes to do it (McAuliffe has said he will not raise taxes). The spot appears aimed at fiscal conservatives, although that can include independents and swing voters.
Conversely, Cuccinelli ads with more explicit crossover appeal are no longer on the air. One of them featured a wrongly convicted man he helped free from prison; another showcased a Democratic member of the Richmond School Board.
Similarly, at a rally Monday with out-of-state Republican attorneys general, Cuccinelli said he wasn’t sure whether he would have voted for the deal that reopened the government. In the past, Cuccinelli wavered on the topic of the federal government shutdown, which polls have shown to be broadly unpopular across Virginia — but much less so among Republicans.