Democrat Terry McAuliffe leads Republican Kenneth T. Cuccinelli by 8 points in the Virginia governor’s race, 47 percent to 39 percent — with Libertarian candidate Robert Sarvis taking 8 percent — in a poll released Thursday less than a month from election day on Nov. 5.
Mr. McAuliffe, a businessman and former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, holds a sizable 19-point advantage over Mr. Cuccinelli among women, 53 percent to 34 percent — a gender gap that’s also evident in other recent polling on the race. Men favor Mr. Cuccinelli by a 4-point margin, 45 percent to 41 percent.
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Forty-six percent of likely voters say Mr. Cuccinelli, the state’s attorney general, is “too conservative,” versus 7 percent who say he is too liberal and 37 percent who say he is “about right.” Thirty-eight percent think Mr. McAuliffe is too liberal, 2 percent say he’s too conservative, and 48 percent say he’s about right.
“Terry McAuliffe’s strategy has been to paint Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli as too conservative to be Virginia’s next governor,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. “Today, almost half of Virginia voters agree, more than the 38 percent who say McAuliffe is too liberal.”
Mr. McAuliffe is also doing a slightly better job of shoring up the party faithful. He wins the support of 95 percent of Democrats, compared to 83 percent of Republicans for Mr. Cuccinelli; 7 percent of Republicans are opting for Mr. Sarvis.
Independents are more evenly split: 40 percent favor Mr. McAuliffe, and 38 percent favor Mr. Cuccinelli.
Mr. McAuliffe has more than doubled a 3-point lead he held last month in Quinnipiac’s survey, when he led Mr. Cuccinelli 44 percent to 41 percent and Mr. Sarvis was at 7 percent.
Though Mr. Cuccinelli remains within striking distance in the race, the Democrat has managed to develop a small but statistically significant lead in recent weeks. The latest RealClearPolitics average of recent polls, not including Thursday’s Quinnipiac poll, gives Mr. McAuliffe a 6.2-point edge, 45 percent to 38.8 percent.
“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,” Mr. Brown said.
Voters are essentially split on Mr. McAuliffe’s favorability — 41 percent have a favorable view of him versus 40 percent with an unfavorable one — while Mr. Cuccinelli has a 39 percent/49 percent favorable/unfavorable split.
Voters say Mr. McAuliffe would do a better job handling women’s issues, abortion, energy and the environment, health care, education, and ethics in government, and favor Mr. Cuccinelli for handling taxes. The two candidates are effectively tied on handling jobs and the economy — issues both of them have tried to make the cornerstone of their respective campaigns.
Forty-nine percent of voters support President Obama’s heath care overhaul and 47 percent oppose it, but just 37 percent support Congress cutting off its funding as a means to stop its implementation compared to 59 percent who oppose the tactic. And less than 30 percent support shutting down major activities of the federal government or holding back on raising the country’s borrowing limit in order to thwart the implementation of the law.
Mr. McAuliffe’s camp has been working feverishly to tie Mr. Cuccinelli to the ongoing stalemate over the federal government shutdown on Capitol Hill. Mr. Cuccinelli has said he does not favor a shutdown and said last week that defunding Obamacare as a means to do so is not the proper approach.
Virginia, which receives an outsize portion of federal dollars relative to other states, is among the most vulnerable to cessation of government activities, but nearly 60 percent of voters in the poll say that the shutdown has caused them no inconvenience, and just 25 percent describe it as a “major” inconvenience for them or their family.
The shutdown began at midnight on Oct. 1. The survey of 1,180 likely voters in Virginia was taken from Oct. 2-8 and has a margin of error of 2.9 percentage points.
Voters do not register by party in the state, but 32 percent self-identified as Democrats, 27 percent said they were Republicans and 35 percent said they were independents.