The Virginia governor’s race remains a statistical dead heat, and an independent candidacy by Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling would not create much separation between the likely major-party candidates, according to a new statewide poll released this morning.
Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and Democrat Terry McAuliffe are tied at 38 percent in the Quinnipiac University poll. With Bolling added to the survey as a hypothetical independent candidate, McAuliffe gets 34 percent, Cuccinelli gets 31 percent and Bolling 13 percent.
The new poll differs little from a January Quinnipiac survey that had McAuliffe at 40 percent and Cuccinelli at 39 percent in a two-way race. But the new poll indicates that most Virginians still are not paying close attention to the race, with more than eight months to go until the election.
“When asked about the candidates, most voters don’t know enough about Terry McAuliffe or Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling to have an opinion and barely half know enough about Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli to form an opinion,” said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. “This despite the fact that Bolling and Cuccinelli have been elected to statewide office and McAuliffe ran for governor four years ago.”
Bolling withdrew from the race for the Republican gubernatorial nomination late last year after determining that he could not get the nomination in a party convention controlled by conservative activists. Bolling, who has questioned Cuccinelli’s ability to win the general election, will decide by mid-March whether to run as an independent.
In the poll, Bolling has an 18 percent favorabe rating and 72 percent didn’t know enough about him to form an opinion. Cuccinelli has a 30 percent favorable rating and a 25 percent unfavorable mark. McAuliffe’s rating is 23 percent favorable to 16 percent unfavorable, with 60 percent not knowing enough about the former Democratic National Committee chairman.
“Bolling probably has the greatest growth potential of the candidates but he also has the farthest to go to become a major contender,” Brown said. “At this point – although it certainly could change – the data indicates that Bolling’s GOP critics who say he can’t win as an independent but might tilt the result to McAuliffe could be on to something.”
The survey results come from phone interviews with 1,112 registered voters conducted between Feb. 14 and Monday. The poll’s margin of error is 2.9 percentage points.
In the poll, voters are split evenly, 44 – 43 percent, on whether Cuccinelli should resign as attorney general while he runs for governor. Cuccinelli has said that he plans to serve his full four-year term as attorney general, unlike recent predecessors who stepped down during the election year to become full-time gubernatorial candidates.
As for Bolling, 48 percent said he should stay in his post as lieutenant governor if he runs for the top, and 36 percent said he should resign. Bolling serves as the presiding officer of the Virginia Senate, which is scheduled to wrap up its 2013 session on Saturday.
The incumbent governor, Republican Bob McDonnell, has a 53 percent job approval rating, and a 55 percent approval mark with independent voters.
Virginia voters don’t think as much of the General Assembly, according to the poll. Only 38 percent approve of the legislature’s job performance, and 46 percent disapprove.
The complete poll results are available here.
– Michael Sluss