Newsmax/Zogby Poll: Virginia Governor's Race Is Dead Heat

Monday, 30 Sep 2013 04:16 PM

By John Gizzi

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In a startling development in Virginia's race for governor, a just-completed Newsmax/Zogby survey shows Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Ken Cuccinelli in a virtual dead heat.

The new John Zogby poll, conducted for Newsmax among likely Virginia voters from September 27-29, shows McAuliffe, the former Democratic Party national chairman, leading state Attorney General Cuccinelli by a wafer-thin margin of 32.5 percent to 32.4 percent.

According to Zogby, 10.8 percent of voters prefer "another candidate" and a strong 24.3 percent are undecided.

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One possible stumbling block for Cuccinelli is the strength of the third candidate, Libertarian nominee Robert Sarvis. When the Northern Virginia entrepreneur and attorney's name is put into the race, Zogby found nearly a 5-point edge for the Democrat with McAuliffe at 32.2 percent, Cuccinelli 27.4 percent, Sarvis 12.7 percent, and others 3.2 percent.

The startling results come after weeks of surveys from other outlets that showed the better-funded McAuliffe with leads of 5-to-10 percentage points over Cuccinelli.

In virtually every category surveyed by Zogby, the two major candidates are competitive. Among male voters, Cuccinelli leads by a margin of 40.5 percent to 33.8 percent. Among female voters — targeted by the Democratic camp over the issue of Cuccinelli's pro-life position — McAuliffe leads by 31.3 percent to 25.2 percent.

Among white voters, Cuccinelli leads McAuliffe 35.2 percent to 31.8 percent. Among black voters — who comprise about 13 percent of the Old Dominion electorate — McAuliffe leads 41.1 percent to 22.1 percent for Cuccinelli.

Two other groups in which the Republican hopeful does surprisingly well are among voters 18-to-29 — who went strongly for Barack Obama in the last two presidential elections — and self-described independents. Cuccinelli leads among the 18-to-29 group 46.0 percent to 26.7 percent and trails slightly among independents, with 25.6 percent to 30.8 percent.

Don't Forget About the Libertarian

When Sarvis' name is put into the race, Zogby's figures inarguably confirm what other polls have said: that, despite the state's history of not giving much support to third-party contenders, the Libertarian nominee is a factor in this race and hurts Cuccinelli more than McAuliffe.

Among the 18-to-29 year old voters who strongly back Cuccinelli in a two-candidate race, the inclusion of the Libertarian changes the results dramatically: McAuliffe 28.8 percent, Cuccinelli 23.2 percent, and Sarvis 21.6 percent. Among male voters, Cuccinelli's seven-point lead in a two-candidate race is transformed into a virtual tie with McAuliffe when Sarvis is included: McAuliffe 33.6 percent, Cuccinelli 33.9 percent, and Sarvis 12.9 percent.

"Clearly, Sarvis' vote total comes more out of us than it does out of them," former Republican Rep. Tom Davis of Virginia, a past chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, told Newsmax on Monday.

"And it wouldn't surprise me to find Democrats doing their utmost among independent and undecided voters to boost Sarvis' vote total, as they did in the Senate races last year in Montana, Indiana, and Arizona," Davis said. In Montana and Indiana, Democrats won with a plurality over Republicans with Libertarian candidates in both states drawing better than the margin of difference. And Republican Jeff Flake won the Arizona Senate race but had a closer-than-expected contest with a Libertarian drawing significant votes.

Another "outsider" put into the race by Zobgy was black clergyman E.W. Jackson, the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor, whose controversial statements about gays and Planned Parenthood have drawn widespread condemnation from much of the press – including an editorial in the Washington Post Monday – and even from other Republicans.

When McAuliffe and Democratic lieutenant governor nominee Ralph Northam are listed as a ticket against Republicans Cuccinelli and Jackson, the outcome is a slight edge for the Democrats: 35.8 percent to 32.0 percent. It would seem that the controversial Jackson does not have much impact on the race. In any event, Virginia elects the governor, lieutenant governor, and state attorney general separately on the fall ballot and has a history of the top two constitutional offices in the hands of different parties.

The closeness of the race comes after Cuccinelli became embroiled in an ongoing ethics problem and suffered from identification with outgoing Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell.

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McAuliffe's television broadsides have repeatedly pounded his opponent for accepting a ride on a private jet and Thanksgiving turkeys from businessman Jonnie Williams, whose numerous gifts to McDonnell have come under scrutiny from law enforcement officials. Cuccinelli has since made a charitable donation in the amount of the gifts from Williams.

Cuccinelli, in turn, has run spots raising questions about McAuliffe's business dealings in other states and lack of experience in state government. In addition, an independent super PAC known as "Fight for Tomorrow" has gone on the attack against McAuliffe and highlighted his ties to national Democrats.

All told, it would appear that, after weeks of bad publicity and bad poll numbers for Cuccinelli, the latest figures show that, with about a month to go before Virginia votes, the race for governor is up for grabs.

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.


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