Virginia voters looking for somebody to blame for the government shutdown impacting federal workers in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads have settled on gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli, who trails Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe by seven points in a new Christopher Newport University poll.
The school’s Judy Ford Wason Center for Public Policy poll, released Tuesday morning, finds that likely voters prefer McAuliffe 46 percent to 39 percent for Cuccinelli. Libertarian candidate Robert Sarvis wins 11 percent. Only 4 percent of likely voters are undecided.
Those results, depressing to the Virginia attorney general's camp, are almost identical to the school's last poll conducted a week ago that put Cuccinelli's support at 38 percent, McAuliffe at 47 percent and Sarvis at 8 percent.
The poll indicates that the winner may be elected in three weeks with less than a majority of voters for the first time four decades.
Wason Center Director Quentin Kidd said that concern about the shutdown is “bleeding” support from Cuccinelli, even though only a minority of voters are blaming him.
According to the school’s release: “Most voters say neither candidate bears any responsibility for the shutdown, but among the 13 percent who cast blame, far more blame Cuccinelli (47 percent) than McAuliffe (7 percent). Likely voters who are affected by the shutdown or who know someone affected prefer McAuliffe to Cuccinelli, 49 percent to 34 percent.”
Kidd said, “The shutdown is definitely motivating some voters against Cuccinelli, who already had a Tea Party problem with Independents and business-minded Republicans.”
The poll also shows little impact from critical news stories about McAuliffe's campaign and past investments. The Washington Post, for example, reported Tuesday that “Gubernatorial hopeful Terry McAuliffe did not publicly disclose his investment with a Rhode Island man who preyed on dying people in forms filed with the state four years ago.”
McAuliffe plans to campaign with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton soon, a move likely to help him build on his huge gender gap advantage over Cuccinelli, who has been hit with ads charging that his policies would hurt women. The poll found that McAuliffe leads women 51 percent to 37 percent.
Independents, however, are moving to Cuccinelli. The poll found that McAuliffe’s lead among independents dropped from 16 percent in last week’s poll to 6 percent. But, the school said, “Cuccinelli continues to struggle within his own party, with 13 percent of Republicans saying either they plan to vote for Sarvis or they are undecided.”
In the lieutenant-governor race, Democrat Ralph Northam leads Republican E.W. Jackson among likely voters, 51 percent to 39 percent.
The only bright spot in the poll for the GOP is that attorney general candidate Mark Obenshain leads Democrat Mark Herring 46 percent to 45 percent.
The Wason Center surveyed 944 registered Virginia voters, including 753 likely voters, Oct. 8-13. The total margin of error is +/- 3.1 percent; the likely voter margin of error is +/-3.6 percent.Paul Bedard, The Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.