The raucous, heavily financed governor’s race in Virginia is narrowing near Election Day.
That’s according to a new poll this morning — as opposed to another poll yesterday that showed the gap between front-runner Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Ken Cuccinelli widening.
With a third-party candidate in the running drawing the support of about one in ten voters — and many of them uncommitted to that Libertarian — the numbers add up to a potentially volatile contest heavily dependent on who turns out for an election that has turned off a lot of Virginians for its negativity.
McAuliffe, who has vastly outspent Cuccinelli, holds just a 45-41 percent advantage among likely voters in a survey released this morning by Quinnipiac University. Libertarian Robert Sarvis drew the support of 9 percent. One week ago, Quinnipiac reported a 46-39 percent advantage for McAuliffe. Sarvis had 10 percent.
A Washington Post poll published yesterday found a 12-point advantage for McAuliffe — 51-39 percent — compared with an eight-point advantage last month. Sarvis claimed 8 percent in the newest urvey by the Post and Abt SRBI.
Beneath the top line in these surveys of a contest that has cost $60 million, there is one stark difference : McAuliffe holds a crushing advantage among women in the Post poll — 24 percentage points — and just a 13-point advantage among women in the Quinnipiac survey. McAuliffe also leads among independent voters, who could be the key in a state that has long leaned Republican in national races but also elected Democratic governors and senators and backed President Barack Obama twice.
McAuliffe, who has reported collecting close to $37 million, including $500,000 from Napster founder Sean Parker on Oct. 18, has hammered Cuccinelli with TV ads portraying the state’s attorney general as a threat to women’s rights because of his support for abortion-limiting measures. First Lady Michelle Obama has made radio ads for Cuccinelli and signed letters sent to Virginia women in the closing days of the contest. Bill and Hillary Clinton also have campaigned for McAuliffe in the homestretch.
The third-party candidate also has added some uncertainty to the outcome. Without Sarvis in the race, the Quinnipiac survey puts a McAuliffe-Cuccinelli matchup at 47-45 — “too close to call.” Additionally, seven percent of voters who name a candidate say there’s a “good chance” they will change their minds. And while nine in 10 supporters of the Democrat and Republican say they are committed, only six in 10 of the Libertarian’s supporters say so.
“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 Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, in a statement issued with the poll’s findings ”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.”