New poll shows tight race for Virginia governor
RICHMOND, Jan 23, 2013 (The Virginian-Pilot - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
The two leading candidates for Virginia governor this year are locked in a tight race whose outcome may depend on turnout levels in November, according to a new poll sampling voter attitudes about the contest.
Survey results released Wednesday show Democratic businessman Terry McAuliffe with a statistically insignificant lead -- 31 percent to 30 percent -- over Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.
The poll from the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University suggests one-third of voters, 33 percent, are undecided on which candidate to support.
And several variables, some measured by the poll, could be key factors in how the race ultimately shakes out.
One is whether Republican Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, who dropped out of the GOP nominating contest last month, pursues an independent candidacy as he's said he might.
With Bolling in the race, the poll found Cuccinelli and McAuliffe tied with 27 percent support apiece and the lieutenant governor pulling down 9 percent of the vote.
Wason Center director Quentin Kidd said a Bolling candidacy would appear to take slightly more votes from Cuccinelli than McAuliffe.
"Bill Bolling could play the spoiler if he enters the race, but it isn't clear that he could beat either Cuccinelli or McAuliffe at this point," Kidd said.
Another dynamic is what the electorate will look like next fall.
The poll found that high turnout which approximates what Virginia saw last November when President Barack Obama carried the state en route to re-election would benefit McAuliffe and might be enough to deliver him victory.
In contrast, Cuccinelli holds the upper hand if voter participation is lower and closer to levels registered in 2009 when Gov. Bob McDonnell, Bolling and Cuccinelli prevailed in a statewide Republican sweep.
"These results point to a very tight race for governor, and the question is whether the turnout shapes up as it did for Bob McDonnell or for Barack Obama," Kidd explained.
Poll results are based on live land line and cellular telephone interviews with 1,015 registered voters conducted Jan. 14-20. Its margin of error is 3.1 percent.
The Wason Center survey also found that Obama and McDonnell each have 51 percent approval ratings in Virginia.
A separate poll conducted earlier this month by Quinnipiac University Polling Institute likewise showed a tight gubernatorial race.
It put McAuliffe narrowly ahead of Ken Cuccinelli, 40 percent to 39 percent, with nearly one-fifth of voters undecided.
Julian Walker, 804-697-1564, firstname.lastname@example.org
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