With three weeks to go until Election Day in Virginia, a new poll indicates Democrat Terry McAuliffe holding a single digit advantage over Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli in the battle for governor.
And the survey, by the Judy Ford Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University, also suggests that the partial government shutdown is hurting Cuccinelli more than McAuliffe. Virginia is home to a large number of federal government and defense industry workers, many of whom have been impacted by the two-week long shutdown.
According to the poll, which was conducted Tuesday through Sunday, 46% of likely voters in the commonwealth back McAuliffe, a businessman and former chairman of the Democratic National Committee who's making his second bid for governor. Thirty-nine percent of those questioned say they support Cuccinelli, with Libertarian Party candidate Robert Sarvis polling at 11%.
The Christopher Newport University poll is similar to two other surveys released last week in the Virginia gubernatorial battle. McAuliffe led Cuccinelli by eight points in a Quinnipiac University poll and held a five point margin in a Roanoke College survey.
Most voters questioned in the poll say neither candidate bears any responsibility for the partial government shutdown, but of the 13% who pointed fingers, 47% blame Cuccinelli and only 7% blame McAuliffe. And McAuliffe leads Cuccinelli by 15 points among likely voters affected by, or know someone affected by, the shutdown.
"The shutdown is definitely motivating some voters against Cuccinelli, who already had a Tea Party problem with Independents and business-minded Republicans," said Quentin Kidd, director of the Wason Center.
Cuccinelli, whose chances at winning greatly depend on turning out his conservative base, has been reluctant to criticize the tea party-backed GOP lawmakers in Congress who tied a push to defund the new national health care law to any measure to continue funding the federal goverment. But Cuccinelli kept some distance between himself and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who's been a vocal leader in the drive to dismantle Obamacare, when the two men appeared at a political function in Richmond, Virginia recently.
The McAuliffe campaign has tried to tie Cuccinelli to Cruz and the other conservative lawmakers who Democrats blame for causing the shutdown.
Virginia, a critical purple battleground in campaign politics, and New Jersey are the only two states to hold gubernatorial contests in the year following a presidential election, giving them outsized attention and importance.
The winner of the election will succeed outgoing Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell.
The Christopher Newport University poll was conducted October 8-13, with 753 likely voters questioned by telephone. The survey's sampling error for likely voters is plus or minus 3.6 percentage points.