Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 13, 2016

Ratings Change: Virginia Governor

McAuliffe now has a small advantage in the race for governor. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

McAuliffe now has a small advantage in the race for governor. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

As the stretch run for the Virginia gubernatorial election begins, Democrat Terry McAuliffe has established himself as a narrow but clear front-runner over state Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, a Republican.

Polling generally shows the Democrat with a consistent mid-to-upper single digit lead, a significant advantage in a three-way race at this point in the cycle given the TV advertising that has already aired.

Cuccinelli’s strong TV ads attacking McAuliffe on jobs and China have not helped him transform the race, and the coverage surrounding GOP Gov. Bob McDonnell and the state’s first lady has diluted the impact of Cuccinelli’s message about McAuliffe’s ethics.

Some surveys, including recent polls released by the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling and Emerson College Polling Society, show Libertarian Robert Sarvis drawing around 10 percent of the vote. But polling often exaggerates the strength of third-party and independent candidates. In the 2009 New Jersey gubernatorial election, for example, three polls conducted two weeks before the election showed Independent Chris Daggett drawing as much as 20 percent of the vote. He finished with just under 6 percent. (See my October 2009 piece here.)

Of course, it is rare that both major party nominees have such huge flaws, as McAuliffe and Cuccinelli do. In any case, Sarvis is likely to get at least a few points, so the winning candidate in the race won’t need to get 50 percent of the vote.

Given McAuliffe’s advantage and Democrats’ success in defining Cuccinelli as unacceptable, the Democrat now deserves to be regarded as the favorite in the contest. Because of that, we are moving this race from a Tossup to Lean Democrat.

  • bpai99

    In a choice between a sleazebag and a moralizing social dinosaur, I’ll go with the former anytime as the lesser of 2 evils.

    “The worst government is the most moral. One composed of cynics is often
    very tolerant and humane. But when fanatics are on top there is no limit
    to oppression.” – H.L. Mencken

  • KingGeorge2013

    As far as Robert Sarvis is concerned, who is he really spoiling the race for? Conservatives say its for Cuccinelli, and liberals say it’s for McAuliffe. There are also those who claim that he’s taking equally from prospective Cuccinelli and McAuliffe voters.

  • Freedom First

    Since each infant will experience environmental variability as it develops, it is impossible to foresee anyone’s complete future potential.

  • Constitutional Reset from Va i

    “What has Terry fought for besides his wallet?”
    Plunder is the priority of crony capitalists like Terry.

    • dectra

      Typical Teabagger comment.

      All your golden boy Cuchinelli fights for is the right to jam big government into our bedrooms

  • Constitutional Reset from Va i

    Cuccinelli and Sarvis need to talk – extensively – and become good friends. Virginia needs your voice to encourage them to do so.

    • dectra

      And you need to realize that we Virginians do NOT need Ken’s brand of moral turpitude in the Governor’s House.

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