A McAwful Turn for Virginia
If you lose the spending war on the airwaves, you’re likely to lose on Election Day.

Terry McAuliffe (left) and Ken Cuccinelli at a recent debate.


Jim Geraghty

As Virginia’s gubernatorial race enters its final stretch, Democrat Terry McAuliffe’s campaign has been re-running an ad from earlier in the year.

The ad, “Too Important,” is designed to promote McAuliffe as a bipartisan dealmaker, but it also features outgoing governor Bob McDonnell quite a bit, as one of the heroes of the story, bedeviled by Cuccinelli and “tea-party Republicans” until McAuliffe arrives to save the day:

McAuliffe’s willingness to associate himself with McDonnell — over a tax increase! — points to the fallacy of one of the more popular theories of this year’s election in Virginia: that the scandal surrounding McDonnell’s acceptance of more than $145,000 in gifts and loans from a wealthy donor, Jonnie Williams Sr., CEO of Star Scientific, is hurting Cuccinelli. (McDonnell is limited to one term.)

The scandal certainly doesn’t help the Republican candidate, of course, but McDonnell regularly polled better than Cuccinelli this year, even after details of the scandal emerged.

A Quinnipiac survey in late August found 47 percent approving of McDonnell’s performance in office, with 39 percent disapproving; At the same time, that pollster found Cuccinelli with only 42 percent head-to-head against McAuliffe and only 35 percent saying they had a favorable opinion of Cuccinelli.

In late September, NBC4/NBC News/Marist showed a 55 percent job-approval rating for McDonnell, with 53 percent viewing him favorably. An October Politico poll found 44 percent approving of McDonnell’s job performance, 40 percent disapproving. In that same survey, Cuccinelli is getting only 35 percent support (42 percent with Libertarian Robert Sarvis removed from the list of options) and only 34 percent saying they have a favorable opinion of him.

In perhaps the most jarring result of all, the NBC survey found that among registered voters, McDonnell leads a head-to-head matchup against the Democrat, 47 percent to 42 percent.

If the gift scandal hasn’t really hurt McDonnell that much, it’s hard to believe that it is somehow the decisive problem for Cuccinelli.

Recent coverage of the race suggests Cuccinelli is now being hurt by a policy fight he has no real ability to influence, the partial shutdown of the federal government. That can’t be blamed entirely for Cuccinelli’s low standing in the polls, but it certainly has hurt him by associating Republicans with a decision most Virginians oppose and quite a few feel hurts them personally.

Quinnipaic asked voters whether they or a family member have been personally inconvenienced by the partial shutdown. Overall, 25 percent said it had been a major inconvenience; 16 percent, a minor inconvenience. It’s not a partisan phenomenon: Among Republicans, 21 percent said it had been a major inconvenience, and 20 percent said it had been a minor one.

Another poll, by Christopher Newport University, found 20 percent saying the shutdown had affected them personally, 42 percent saying they knew someone who had been affected, and 12 percent saying both.


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