With three weeks to go until Election Day in Virginia, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe continues to lead Republican candidate Ken Cuccinelli by a wide margin, according to a new poll.
The government shutdown. now entering its third week. is having a harmful effect on the Cuccinelli camp. The new poll, conducted by the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University, found McAuliffe leading Cuccinelli 46 percent to 39 percent among likely voters.
Libertarian candidate Robert Sarvis continues to inch up, sporting 11 percent, a strong showing for a third-party candidate.
McAuliffe's persistent lead is being fueled by strong support from women (51 percent to 37 percent) and African Americans (95 percent to 3 percent). He also holds a six-point lead among likely independent voters (36 percent to 30 percent).
Sarvis has 30 percent of the independent vote.
Among men, McAuliffe and Cuccinelli are in a dead heat (41 percent), with Sarvis carrying 15 percent.
"The wild card in this race continues to be Robert Sarvis and the 15% of voters who are either taking refuge in his third-party candidacy or are still undecided," said Dr. Quentin Kidd, director of the Wason Center for Public Policy.
"If those numbers hold, Virginia may elect a governor with less than 50% of the vote for the first time since an extreme segregationist party splintered the establishment Byrd conservatives in 1965."
The poll also showed the government shutdown harming Cuccinelli's prospects.
Voters who say they're keeping a close eye on the government shutdown favor McAuliffe by 14 points (50 to 36), and those who say they - or someone they know - are being affected by the shutdown, the lead is even greater (49 percent to 34 percent).
Among the likely voters who say one of the candidates bears responsibility for the shutdown, 47 percent fault Cuccinelli, while only 7 percent blame McAuliffe. 42 percent place blame on both.
"The federal government shutdown is definitely motivating some voters against Cuccinelli, who already had a Tea Party problem with Independents and business-minded Republicans," said Kidd.
In the race for Lieutenant Governor, Democratic State Senator Ralph Northam has maintained his sizable lead over Republican E.W. Jackson, 51 percent to 39 percent. Northam was polling over 50 percent for the first time since polling began.
"Northam looks like he is in a commanding lead, beating Jackson in every demographic group and holding a big advantage among Independents," said Kidd.
The close race throughout the last few weeks has been the one for Attorney General, and both Mark Herring (D) and Mark Obenshain (R) continue to be in a dead heat, with Obenshain holding a slight lead among likely voters 46 percent to 45 percent. 9 percent remain undecided.
The Wason Center for Public Policy poll of 1,004 registered voters, including 886 likely voters, was taken Oct. 1-6. The survey's margin of error is +/- 3.1% at the 95% level of confidence.
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