Poll: McDonnell Scandals Harming Virginia GOP Governor Candidate

Wednesday, 21 Aug 2013 02:13 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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Virginia Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell's political issues may be hurting GOP candidate Ken Cuccinelli's ratings in the upcoming gubernatorial election, a new Quinnipiac University poll shows.

Democratic contender Terry McAuliffe has opened up a six-point lead over Cuccinelli, Virginia's state attorney, among people likely to vote in this November's election, Quinnipiac's poll, released Thursday, said.

While other surveys have been done among registered voters, the latest poll results are the first taken among Virginia residents likely to cast ballots this fall, and show McAuliffe ahead by 48-42 percent.

"The campaign has been light on issues and big on personalities, and it is in the area of personal characteristics that McAuliffe has a small edge," said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

"It seems obvious that McDonnell's political troubles are hurting fellow Republican Cuccinelli. Guilt by association may not be fair, but it sure is politically powerful. Trust matters and at this point neither man is doing all that well in that category."

McDonnell's once-promising political future has been dimmed by political fallout stemming from ongoing state and federal investigations into his relationship with Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams, who loaned him large sums of money.

Along with the loans, Williams has reportedly made gifts of $15,000 for a shopping trip in New York by McDonnell's wife, Maureen; a $6,500 Rolex watch, which McDonnell insists was a gift from his wife; and thousands of dollars in gifts to their daughters at the time of their weddings.

The 1,129 voters questioned said a candidate's honesty is the one of the most important values they seek when choosing who will get their vote. They were divided almost evenly between the candidates when it came to honesty standards; 39-36 percent on McAuliffe's honesty and 42-43 percent on Cuccinelli's.

The voters also deemed a candidate's experience as important, saying by a 56-31 percent margin that Cuccinelli has the right experience, compared with 46-34 percent saying McAuliffe has the experience they seek.

However, the voters said they don't think Cuccinelli understands their problems, an "extremely important" factor when deciding who gets their vote. They said, by a 51-37 percent margin, that Cuccinelli does not understand them, compared to a 38-42 percent margin for McAuliffe.

"McAuliffe is up 16 percentage points among voters who say empathy or understanding their problems is extremely important, while Cuccinelli has a 23-point advantage among those who say the right kind of experience is extremely important," said Brown. "It's a toss-up among voters who say honesty is extremely important."

Both McAuliffe and Cuccinelli have had their own ethical problems in the run-up to the November election. McAuliffe's concerns government guarantees to the green car company he promised to open in Virginia, but which went to Mississippi, while Cuccinelli's relationship with Williams has also come under fire.

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