Shutdown hasn't affected Virginia governor's race, poll says

Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe leads Republican Ken Cuccinelli 46 to 39 percent in a new Quinnipiac poll, numbers that remain virtually unchanged from the government shutdown even though 47 percent of likely Virginia voters say it affected their state "a great deal."

At the height of the shutdown, on Oct. 10, Quinnipiac showed McAuliffe leading Cuccinelli, the state's attorney general, 47 to 39 percent. Support for Libertarian Party candidate Robert Sarvis, has hovered between eight and 10 percent.

Four percent of voters remain undecided ahead of the Nov. 5 election, with seven percent saying that there is a "good chance" they will change their mind before then.

"The double-digit presence of Libertarian Robert Sarvis on the ballot creates a major uncertainty," said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling institute. "The big question about Sarvis is whether his voters will stick with him to the end, or wind up voting for McAuliffe or Republican State Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli."

"Generally over the past decades, especially in southern states like Virginia, Republicans win when they have strong party allegiance among their base. One reason McAuliffe is ahead is that he wins 92 percent of Democrats while Cuccinelli has only 81 percent of Republicans. If Cuccinelli can't bring more Republicans home, he is likely to be toast," Brown said.

Overall, however, Virginians aren't enthralled with either candidate. Voters have an unfavorable opinion of the race by a margin of 58 to 36 percent, and both candidates' approval ratings are underwater: McAuliffe has a negative 39 to 43 percent favorability, and Cuccinelli has a negative 38 to 52 percent score.

Likely voters give both candidates marks in the low 40-percent range for honesty and trustworthiness. In general, they say McAuliffe is more likely to understand their problems but Cuccinelli has better experience.

The Quinnipiac poll surveyed 1,085 likely Virginia voters from Oct. 15-21 with a margin of error of +/-3 percent.

Former President Bill Clinton is set to campaign for McAuliffe at Richmond Community High School this Saturday, a week after his wife Hillaryendorsed him in Falls Church, Va. The Clintons have long been friends with McAuliffe, who served as finance chairman of Bill Clinton's 1996 presidential race and chairman of Hillary Clinton's 2008 primary campaign.

Hillary Clinton is alsoset to attend a California fundraiser for McAuliffe next week.

Cuccinelli hasn't been without the backing of well-known public figures, but has nothing like the start power of the Clintons. Former Republican vice presidential Candidate Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., held a conference call for him on Tuesday evening and Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., will hold two rallies with him next week.

  • Rebecca Kaplan

    Rebecca Kaplan is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.

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