VA's Gubernatorial Race: Identity Issues

Mar 27, 2013

There are still eight long months before Virginians head to the polls to choose a new governor, but Quinnipiac University's Peter Brown expects the race to about as tight then as it is now.

Republican Ken Cuccinelli.
Credit Virginia Attorney General's Office

And  that may have a lot to do with candidate identity—or the lack thereof—when it comes to Republican Ken Cuccinelli and Democrat Terry McAuliffe.

Democrat Terry McAuliffe
Credit McAuliffe Campaign

Cuccinelli leads McAuliffe by just two percentage points in the latest poll, which in the world of polling is a dead heat. Overwhelmingly, respondents see the economy as the most important issue, followed by education. Neither candidate is known very well in Virginia—but again, Cuccinelli has a slight advantage over McAullife. But the poll, according to Brown, dispels some of the perceptions about both candidates
"There are a few more voters who see Mr. Cuccinelli as too conservative than see Mr. McAuliffe is too liberal but there's not a huge gap.  And one of the things that's  very interesting is that there is a perception in much of the media and among some of the elites that Mr. Cuccinelli is just to conservative to be governor of Virginia--there's been national media about that possibility," said Brown.

Thirty-two percent of voters say Cuccinelli's political philosophy is about right, and 29% say he is too conservative.  Twenty-nine percent say McAuliffe's philosophy is about right, while 21% say he is too liberal.  Brown adds that President Obama's popularity by the time the election rolls around may factor into it because Virginia typically elects a Governor whose political party is opposite that of the President.