Democrat Terry McAuliffe leads Republican Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II by 4 percentage points in the Virginia governor’s race, according to a Quinnipiac poll released Wednesday — a considerably narrower margin than other recent public polling has shown.
Mr. McAuliffe, a businessman and former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, leads Mr. Cuccinelli, the state’s attorney general, 45 percent to 41 percent, the poll showed, with 9 percent of likely voters opting for Libertarian candidate Robert Sarvis. That lead is down from a 46 percent to 39 percent advantage for Mr. McAuliffe in a Quinnipiac poll last week, when Mr. Sarvis was at 10 percent.
“State Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is nipping at Terry McAuliffe’s heels as the race to be Virginia’s next governor enters the final week of the campaign,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. “It goes without saying that turnout is the key to this race and the harshly negative tone of the campaign is the kind that often turns off voters.”
If Mr. Sarvis were not in the race, the poll shows, Mr. McAuliffe would have a razor-thin 2-point edge, 47 percent to 45 percent. In the three-way contest, 4 percent are undecided, and 7 percent of those who make a choice say there’s a good chance their mind could change by election day.
“For the past several weeks, political pundits have written off Ken Cuccinelli well before any polls have opened or closed, but we have consistently maintained that we know this is a margin race as exhibited in today’s Quinnipiac University poll,” said Cuccinelli strategist Chris LaCivita. “The experts can say what they will, but our campaign intends to deliver its message on Election Day.”
McAuliffe leads 91 percent to 2 percent among Democrats, with 4 percent opting for Mr. Sarvis, while Cuccinelli leads 86 percent to 5 percent among Republicans, with 7 percent choosing Mr. Sarvis. Independent voters break for Mr. McAuliffe, 46 percent to 31 percent, with 16 percent for Mr. Sarvis.
“Only six in 10 Sarvis supporters say they definitely will vote for him. Almost nine in 10 McAuliffe and Cuccinelli backers are committed,” Mr. Brown said. “Cuccinelli seems to be benefiting from Republicans coming home, but McAuliffe still does a little better among Democrats than Cuccinelli does among GOPers. And, McAuliffe leads among independents, perhaps the key voting group. It is difficult to see Cuccinelli winning if he can’t run at least even or slightly ahead among independents. Here, too, Sarvis’ voters matter greatly since the Libertarian is getting 16 percent of independents, but only 9 percent overall.”
Mr. McAuliffe leads among women, 50 percent to 37 percent, with 7 percent choosing Mr. Sarvis. Mr. Cuccinelli leads among men, 45 percent to 39 percent, with 11 percent opting for the Libertarian.
Both of the major-party candidates are still underwater on favorability. Mr. McAuliffe has a negative 41 percent to 46 percent favorable-unfavorable split, and Mr. Cuccinelli has a negative 40 percent to 52 percent split. Three-quarters of voters don’t know enough about Mr. Sarvis to have formed an opinion about him.
For Mr. McAuliffe’s part, his campaign released a new ad Wednesday touting endorsements from various newspapers around the state, such as The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk and the Daily Press of Newport News.
“Virginians of both parties and major Virginia newspapers continue to put their support behind Terry because they know he will keep Virginia open and welcoming to all and encourage job creation across the Commonwealth,” said McAuliffe spokesman Josh Schwerin.
Virginia voters do not register by party, but 31 percent of respondents self-identified as Republicans, 29 percent said they were Democrats, and 31 percent said they were independents.
The poll of 1,182 likely voters, taken from Oct. 22-28, has a margin of error of 2.9 percentage points.
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