McAuliffe’s Poll Problems

mcauliffeBy Peter Galuszka

Terry McAuliffe is well behind in a recent Washington Post poll — as much as 10 points (51% to 41%) among those who say they will cast ballots in November. Otherwise, the race is five points apart, still not good news for McAuliffe.

Previously, polls had put McAuliffe and opponent Kenneth Cuccinelli at about 50-50, so it is hard to explain what happened from around February when those results came in and the present.

If anything, the news has been running much harder against Cuccinnelli who is involved with two scandals involving unreported gifts from Jonnie Williams, head of Star Scientific, and involvement with  Todd Schneider, the governor’s former chef who is facing felony embezzlement charges. Cuccinelli accepted up to $18,000 in gifts from Williams and supposedly was informed of wrongdoing in the governor’s mansion but did nothing about it. The FBI is involved with the gift matter as it applies to Gov. Robert McDonnell. Cuccinelli has had to recuse himself from his work as attorney general in cases involving Star Scientific and Schneider, who is cause enough for concern.

McAuliffe faces image issues by being a big time Democratic fundraiser and being linked to Bill Clinton. He quietly dropped out of GreenTech Automotive, a hybrid car firm under the spotlight for locating in Mississippi instead of Virginia, failing to live up to development promises and perhaps parking money in the Cayman Islands. The last matter is not illegal but did taint GOP candidate Mitt Romney last fall.

So why are things seemingly tougher for Terry than Ken? A few ideas:

  • It is still early in the race. Cuccinelli has presented very little in the way of a real platform unlike McAuliffe, but no seems to have noticed.
  • McAuliffe, unlike Cuccinelli, still suffers from a name recognition problem once one gets beyond the DC orbit of Prince William County.
  • There’s not much news media any more. The Post owns the GiftGate and ChefGate stories but not everyone reads the Post. When I was in Culpeper on assignment for the Post covering McAuliffe on a tour of a community college in February, there was only one other reporter there. Some television journalist were supposed to have been there but ran out of gas money or something. This says a lot about the state of journalism in general.
  • Voters are sick of politics. We’ve just been through a big race and now face a gubernatorial contest in Virginia. Why is that? Simple. It’s the Virginia way, dating back to the Harry Byrd Organization in the 1920s. You want an off year election precisely because people will be bored. That way the incumbents stay in power, sustaining the machine.

This gets as tired to listening about as what great guys Washington and Jefferson were. But that’s the Virginia way, too.

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5 responses to “McAuliffe’s Poll Problems”

  1. Breckinridge Avatar

    This is not rocket science. McAuliffe has never held elective office. Cuccinelli has served in the State Senate and now as AG, which is probably the best other job in the state if you want to prepare to be Governor. The AG is in effect general counsel to the massive, complicated corporation that is state government. Not everybody agrees with what he has done over the years, but he has been there doing things. And his time in the spotlight has given him name ID and recognition.

    Degrees from UVA and George Mason help immensely to establish his Virginia credentials. This stuff matters.

    The other approach to prepare for the job is a very successful VIRGINIA business career and McAuliffe is still working on making that case. There is time but it is fleeting.

    You can’t beat somebody with nobody and McAuliffe is still not somebody with enough Virginia voters, including many who would naturally vote for him. If they show up.

    I still think this could be very, very close come October. But all the campaign dollars in the world cannot buy more time between today and election day, and voter attention wanders badly from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

  2. larryg Avatar

    Virginia is a purple state, sure enough, but only “quality” Dems have a chance to win – unlike the GOP.

  3. DJRippert Avatar

    The election is all about turnout. Peter is quite right about the entrenched interests loving these off-year elections. It’s one of the reasons that Virginia has the least competitive state legislative elections in America.

    McAuliffe will never build a sufficient persona to win by election day. He needs to bring out the “anybody but Cuccinelli” vote. I heard that Cuccinelli just endorsed fracking in the GeorgeWashington National Forest. What a terrible political position. McAuliffe can oppose that on the basis of it being a national forest and bring out the environmental vote.

  4. Neil Haner Avatar
    Neil Haner

    I think we all need to accept this is Cuccinelli’s race to lose. As Breck mentions above, he’s got statewide name recognition and an impassioned base.

    What isn’t mentioned is that McAuliffe (currently) has almost zero appeal to moderates. He certainly has no more appeal to the middle than Cuccinelli has.

    12 years ago Mark Warner won as a NoVA businessman with no Richmond experience. How did it do it? By being a moderate. He had no prevalent ties to Beltway Democrats, he had no history fighting for ultra-Liberal causes. He could sell himself fully as a centrist (which by and large he is, far more so than most of the state-wide politicians we see).

    McAuliffe is not and cannot be that centrist. Not in the next 6 months. He’s a DNC Liberal running against Tea Party conservative. The moderates will at best hold their noses and vote 50/50, at worst they’ll all stay home. Either way, it comes down to who has the name recognition, and who has the stronger, motivated bases. That’s Cuccinelli. He’s going to have to work hard to blow this one.

    I, for one, welcome our new Tea Party overlords.

  5. Darrell Avatar

    Who is this Terry guy? Is he from Virginia? Does he know how to talk? Maybe use sign language? Are you sure he’s running for office?

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