- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The federal government shutdown has seen Democrat Terry McAuliffe pad his lead in the Virginia governor’s race against Republican Attorney General Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, whose favorability rating in one new poll is lower than Sen. Ted Cruz, the Texas Republican who has become the principal face of the congressional impasse.

The federal government shutdown has seen Democrat Terry McAuliffe pad his lead in the Virginia governor’s race against Republican Attorney General Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, whose favorability rating in one new poll is lower than Sen. Ted Cruz, the Texas Republican who has become the principal face of the congressional impasse.

Three surveys released Tuesday showed Mr. McAuliffe widening his advantage in the race amid an aggressive bid by the Democrat’s campaign to tie Mr. Cuccinelli to the ongoing shutdown, which began Oct. 1. The poll results dovetail with feelings about which party is to blame, with some 50 percent of those surveyed holding congressional Republicans responsible, while 35 percent primarily blame President Obama and Democrats and 15 percent blame both sides equally.

Mr. Cuccinelli has said both parties share blame for the stalemate, but he was again linked to the shutdown when he appeared at the same event in Richmond over the weekend as Mr. Cruz, who has held firm against any budget deal that does not defund President Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

“I don’t think he’s dragging me down,” Mr. Cuccinelli told WJLA-TV Tuesday. “He’s a Texas senator … (so) it doesn’t have a whole lot of resonance in my race.”

But the freshman U.S. senator is viewed favorably by just 26 percent of Virginia voters and unfavorably by 45 percent in a new poll conducted for Politico by the Democratic polling firm Public Policy Polling (PPP) and the Republican polling firm Harper Polling. Mr. Cuccinelli, meanwhile, is viewed favorably by 34 percent of voters but is viewed unfavorably by 56 percent. Mr. McAuliffe has a 39 percent/49 percent favorable/unfavorable split.

The automated survey gives Mr. McAuliffe a 9-point lead overall, 44 percent to 35 percent, with Libertarian Party candidate Robert Sarvis pulling 12 percent. The automated poll of 1,150 likely voters was conducted Oct. 5-6 and has a margin of error of 2.9 percentage points.

A Roanoke College poll released Tuesday shows Mr. McAuliffe leading Mr. Cuccinelli by 6 points, 40 percent to 34 percent — up from a 2-point lead among likely voters in a survey the college took last month. Mr. Sarvis was supported by 9 percent of respondents. The survey of 1,046 likely voters was conducted Sept. 30-Oct. 5 and has a margin of error of 3 percentage points.

Terry McAuliffe may be solidifying his position as the ‘lesser of the evils’ in this election,” said Harry Wilson, director of the Institute for Policy and Opinion Research, which is underwritten by Roanoke College. “Cuccinelli continues to be the lightning rod in the race. Those who say they will vote for him are really voting for him. While McAuliffe’s numbers are better in this area, his supporters still tend to say they are voting against Cuccinelli.”

Meanwhile, in a poll conducted by Christopher Newport University’s Wason Center for Public Policy, Mr. McAuliffe holds a 9-point advantage, leading Mr. Cuccinelli 47 percent to 38 percent. Mr. Sarvis was the preference of 8 percent of likely voters in the Wason Center poll conducted Oct. 1-6. The results are based on interviews with 1,004 registered voters and 886 likely voters; the margin of error for the whole survey is 3.1 percentage points.

Voters do not register by party in Virginia, but 34 percent in the Politico poll self-identified as Democrats, 31 percent said they were Republicans, and 36 percent said they were independents.

The breakdown was 32 percent Democrat, 30 percent Republican and 24 percent independent in the Roanoke poll and 32 percent Democrat, 30 percent Republican and 33 percent independent in the Wason Center poll.