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POLITICAL INSIGHTER: Cuccinelli Weathers Shut Down Storm; Has McAuliffe Reached A Glass Ceiling?

Poll: Cuccinelli Weathers Shut Down Storm

A new Quninnipiac University poll released on October 23 reveals the recent federal government shutdown disgruntled Virginia voters, but didn’t harm Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli, like many had predicted. Consistent with the tenor of the Virginia governor race, the poll again revealed Old Dominion voters don’t like the campaign or the candidates.

While 47 percent of Virginia likely voters say the government shutdown hurt the Commonwealth “a great deal,” it had no influence on the governor’s race, where Democrat Terry McAuliffe leads Cuccinelli 46-39 percent, virtually unchanged since before the shutdown. Libertarian Party candidate Robert Sarvis garnered 10 percent, according to the poll.

This is encouraging news for the fledgling Cuccinelli campaign, whose premature obituary has already been written by the state’s mainstream media elitists. Most pundits had predicted McAuliffe’s lead would expand post shutdown.

The poll results paint a glimmer of hope for the Republican and reveal a realistic pathway for a stunning election-day upset that would undoubtedly send the liberals at MSNBC to New York City’s window ledges.

Here’s the skinny on the survey, assuming voter turnout is similar to 2009 at 39.4 percent:

McAuliffe leads 92-3 percent among Democrats with 2 percent for Sarvis. Terry has locked down his base.

Cuccinelli leads 81-6 among Republicans with 11 percent for Sarvis. Ken needs his base to come home. If they do, he has room for vote growth.

Independents are split evenly 39-39 percent, with 14 percent going to Sarvis. Ken has caught up with Terry on Independents, which leads us to believe the Democrat may have peaked. If the Sarvis vote collapses on Election Day, Ken stands to gain significantly.

McAuliffe continues to trounce Cuccinelli with women, 49-35 percent. This remains McAuliffe’s trump card, and keeps him the prohibitive favorite in the race.

Only 4 percent of Virginia likely voters are undecided and 7 percent says there is a “good chance” they will change their mind by November 5. If you are going to vote for Terry you are going to vote for Terry. I believe the vote growth remains with Ken. Those voters still suspect of the Democrat have to find a home whose name is not Sarvis.

There are four major takeaways from this poll:

1. Despite the shutdown, a lousy campaign thus far and being outspent by McAuliffe by nearly three to one on Virginia’s airwaves, Cuccinelli still is within striking distance. The Attorney General’s campaign — which has been dismally executed – is like the football team that gets outplayed for three and half quarters and loses every stat ever created, but hangs around in the fourth quarter, catches a few breaks, recovers an onside kick in the final minute and wins the game. How many times have we seen that scenario play out?

2. McAuliffe should have put this away by now. Ask yourself: has he peaked at 46 percent? Has he reached a vote ceiling?

3. While McAuliffe has locked down his base, Cuccinelli has not. If this trend remains unchanged, McAuliffe is governor. If Cuccinelli can rally his doubters to his side in the final days, an upset is still within the realm of possibility.

4. The double-digit presence of Libertarian Robert Sarvis creates a major uncertainty in the race. There are three possible scenarios: his vote holds (unlikely), his voters stay home (no influence on the race), his voters break to Cuccinelli to stop McAuliffe at the last minute (a game changer).

If the third possibility plays out, Cuccinelli eviscerates the gap and closes in.

The surveys cross tabs reveal that half of Sarvis’ voters say they may change their mind come election day.

“In general voters think McAuliffe is better able to understand their problems and Cuccinelli has the right experience to be governor,” commented Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. “They overwhelmingly cite honesty and trustworthiness as the characteristics they most want in a governor, and on that scale, the two are virtually even.”

Analysis: McAuliffe should have this wrapped up by now, but his inability to get over fifty percent in most polls underscore a softness in his support, fueled by doubt about his past business dealings and a general uneasiness concerning how he’ll approach the job.

Cuccinelli has to bring home Sarvis wayward voters and get his base to buy in at the final hour. The Republican has squandered opportunities and often been his own worst enemy but he is still alive going into the final 12 days. Cuccinelli is still a decided underdog, but he has a shot to win this race. That alone is reason for his camp to find new life today.

Last Gov. Debate Tonight

Virginia Tech and WDBJ7-TV will host the last Virginia gubernatorial debate between McAuliffe and Cuccinelli tonight in Haymarket Theater at Squires Student Center on the Virginia Tech campus.

WDBJ7 news anchor Jean Jadhon will moderate the one-hour televised debate.

The debate will be broadcast live on WDBJ7 and carried online.

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