The Campaign Spot

Cuccinelli: Voters’ First Focus Is Still Economic Anxieties

One of the key still-unclear factors in& this year’s Virginia governor’s race is just what mood the voters are in as Election Day approaches. Quinnipiac finds only 8 percent describe themselves as “very satisfied” with “the way things are going in Virginia today,” but 54 percent say they’re “somewhat satisfied.” Another 26 percent say they’re “somewhat dissatisifed” and 11 percent say they’re “very dissatisfied.”

Back in 2009, the top issue was clear — the lingering recession and economic fears — and Republican nominee McDonnell’s simple “Bob’s for Jobs” signs were ubiquitous all over the state. This year, two topics dominated coverage of state politics: a transporation deal that hiked taxes in Northern Virginia and troubling revelations of a wealthy Virginia businessman giving expensive gifts to current governor Bob McDonnell and his family.

However, Quinnipiac finds McDonnell’s approval rating . . . still pretty high — 46 percent approve, 37 percent disapprove. That’s down from a May split of 49 percent approval, 28 percent disapproval, but still not quite as bad as one might think after a month of brutal press coverage. (Also note the same survey finds President Obama slightly underwater in Virginia, with 46 percent approving and 51 percent disapproving.)

So how do Virginia voters feel about the economy? The state’s unemployment rate is relatively low, 5.3 percent. The state slipped slightly in CNBC’s annual survey of best states for business, but from third out of 50 states to fifth. McAuliffe’s economic message is that Virginia could be at the very top with more focus on spending in transporation and infrastructure and education.

Ken Cuccinelli, meanwhile, says his conversations with voters reveal a lot of not-so-obvious lingering economic anxiety.

“The priority is the same for voters, it’s still jobs and the economy,” Cuccinelli told me in a recent interview. “To the extent that we’re technically in a recovery, it’s a pretty weak recovery and it isn’t reaching everybody. Especially with the implementation of Obamacare, you’ve got small businesses that are frozen in place. Heck, our community colleges are pushing their adjunct professors down below 30 hours, and that’s happening in the private sector as well. That’s causing a lot of dislocation. Add to that furloughs and sequestration in the two most economically stable parts of the state, northern Virginia and southeastern Virginia, and you really get a decent amount of anxiety about the economy and job opportunities. So I still find that’s the first focus of voters.”

UPDATE: By the way, one Quinnipiac survey result may offer a key indicator of public cynicism, and why McDonnell’s numbers haven’t tumbled too far: Asked, “compared to most people in public life, do you think Bob McDonnell has more honesty and integrity, less honesty and integrity, or about the same,” 12 percent said “more,” 17 percent said “less,” and 60 percent said “about the same.”

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