Bolstered by anger at the federal government shutdown, sympathetic women and a huge lead in left-leaning northern Virginia, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe has stretched his lead to 9 points over Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, according to two different polls released Tuesday.
Christopher Newport University's Wason Center for Public Policy found McAuliffe leading Cuccinelli among likely voters 47 percent to 38 percent. Among registered voters, McAuliffe holds a 5-point lead, 43 percent to 38 percent. Libertarian Robert Sarvis was the preference of 8 percent of likely voters and 9 percent of registered voters, said the school.
“McAuliffe appears to be opening up a sizeable lead, with strength from key demographics,” said Quentin Kidd, director of the Wason Center. “The Cuccinelli campaign has its work cut out. In the next four weeks, they have to convince moderate Republicans to come home, and women to take a second look. The test for the McAuliffe campaign will be to make sure their voters turn out.”
Politico's poll conducted jointly by the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling and the Republican firm Harper Polling, found the Democrat leading the Republican 44 percent to 35 percent, with 12 percent for Sarvis. The paper credited the shutdown for McAuliffe's bump up in the poll.
There are just 28 days left until Virginia votes.
Cuccinelli spokeswoman Anna Nix said, "We believe this race remains very close. With each passing day, Ken Cuccinelli's candidacy is gaining momentum on the ground as more and more voters are learning that he is the only serious candidate in this race with credible plans to create 58,000 jobs and ensure that every Virginia child has the opportunity to obtain a quality education."
Christopher Newport’s Kidd said the keys to McAuliffe’s lead are a 12 percent gap among women, a 16 percent advantage among independents, and a 28 percent lead in Northern Virginia. He is even tied in the Republican stronghold of southwestern Virginia. Kidd said, however, that McAuliffe’s support among blacks isn’t as high as it was for President Obama in 2012 or even 2009 Democratic gubernatorial candidate Creigh Deeds.
Two key Cuccinelli advisors said that polls shortchange the drive conservatives have to keep McAuliffe out of the governor’s mansion. Aides to former GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney said the same thing, but Obama still won Virginia.
The campaign has heated up in the final month, with Cuccinelli calling in conservative Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Virginia to help. McAuliffe, the former Democratic Party chairman, meanwhile, has campaigned with his old boss, Hillary Clinton.
Paul Bedard, The Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.