New poll has McAuliffe maintaining Va. lead, makes it unlikely Sarvis will be in last debate

A new survey of the Virginia governor’s race has good news for Democrat Terry McAuliffe, giving him an eight-point lead over Republican Ken Cuccinelli II amid strong opposition to the federal government shutdown.

It also has bad news for Libertarian Robert Sarvis, who now looks unlikely to participate in the final debate of the contest on Oct. 24, at Virginia Tech.

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The Quinnipiac University poll shows McAuliffe at 47 percent, Cuccinelli at 39 percent and Sarvis at 8 percent among likely voters. The survey is at least the 11th public poll in a row to show McAuliffe maintaining a lead of between five and nine points.

Under an agreement negotiated by Cuccinelli, McAuliffe and the Virginia Tech debate’s sponsor — WDBJ (Channel 7) in Roanoke — Sarvis needed to be polling at 10 percent or above as of Thursday to be given a spot on stage. His inclusion will “rely heavily” on the average of polls from the past three weeks on the RealClearPolitics Web site. Before the Quinnipiac survey, that average stood at 9.1 percent.

The final decision could be announced as early as Thursday. A debate without Sarvis would be a welcome development for Cuccinelli, the state attorney general. Polls have suggested Sarvis is drawing the majority of his support from the Republican candidate, and Cuccinelli’s campaign lobbied behind the scenes to keep the Libertarian off the stage in Blacksburg. (Without Sarvis, Quinnipiac has McAuliffe seven points ahead of Cuccinelli, 49-42.)

But the Quinnipiac poll also has unwelcome news for Cuccinelli. It shows that a large majority of likely voters, 71 percent, are opposed to Republicans’ willingness to shut down the federal government in effort to halt the Affordable Care Act. While Democrats are far more likely to oppose the shutdown than Republicans, 70 percent of independent voters also are against it.

Although they oppose the shutdown overall, 58 percent of Virginians said they have not been “personally inconvenienced” by it.

Overall, McAuliffe gets 40 percent of the independent vote, compared with 38 percent for Cuccinelli and 13 percent for Sarvis.

“With less than a month to go until Election Day, McAuliffe is doing better among Democrats than Cuccinelli is among Republicans. McAuliffe and Libertarian Robert Sarvis are denying Cuccinelli the domination among independents he needs for victory,” Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, said in a statement accompanying the poll Thursday.

“To get back in the race, Cuccinelli must bring back into the fold Republican defectors and pull in more independent voters — a tough task this far into the campaign.”

As in other polls, Quinnipiac shows Cuccinelli’s personal ratings in negative territory. He is viewed favorably by 39 percent of likely voters and unfavorably by 49 percent; McAuliffe’s rating is 41 to 40.

It shows a continued wide gender gap — McAuliffe leads among women, 53 to 34 — and finds that 46 percent of Virginians believe Cuccinelli is too conservative, while 38 percent say McAuliffe is too liberal.

Quinnipiac did not release numbers testing the down-ballot races. But it did find large majorities of likely voters do not know enough about the candidates for lieutenant governor and attorney general to have opinions about them.

 
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