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ELECTION 2013

Poll shows tighter race; Cuccinelli, McAuliffe urge turnout

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Cuccinelli and McAuliffe

Republican Ken Cuccinelli (left) and Democrat Terry McAuliffe.

With a new survey indicating a tightening race for governor, Republican Ken Cuccinelli told supporters the contest remains in the balance and Democrat Terry McAuliffe urged his backers not to be complacent.

In a Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday, McAuliffe led Cuccinelli by 4 percentage points, 45 percent to 41 percent, and third-party nominee Robert C. Sarvis drew 9 percent.

“We’ve got a race within our grasp,” Cuccinelli told more than 75 volunteers gathered at a Hanover County campaign office. “We need folks to show up. The world is run by the people who show up.”

McAuliffe and former President Bill Clinton capped a four-day swing with rallies in Charlottesville and in Roanoke.

“For those of you already helping the campaign, I’m asking, I’m pleading with you to dig a little deeper over the next six days,” McAuliffe told an enthusiastic crowd at a Charlottesville theater. “No sleep. I always say sleep when you’re dead.”

The poll’s result sits just outside of the margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 percentage points. It came two days after a Washington Post poll showed McAuliffe ahead by 12 percentage points. The Post’s poll had a larger margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

News of the poll came as both candidates turned to star surrogates for the stretch run. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and former Texas Rep. Ron Paul will campaign with Cuccinelli in the final days of the race. Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was scheduled to headline a fundraising luncheon for McAuliffe Wednesday in Beverly Hills, Calif.

Cuccinelli “is nipping at Terry McAuliffe’s heels as the race to be Virginia’s next governor enters the final week of the campaign,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

Traditionally, turnout dramatically drops in Virginia’s off-year, statewide elections. Both sides have brought in surrogates in the homestretch to try to rally their base and turn out the vote.

“With the race this close, the final decision by the roughly one in 10 voters who are supporting Libertarian Robert Sarvis has become even more critical,” Brown said.

Six in 10 Sarvis supporters say they definitely will vote for him, Brown said, compared with almost nine in 10 McAuliffe and Cuccinelli backers saying they are firmly behind their candidate. If Sarvis was not in the race, the poll says McAuliffe would have 47 percent of the vote to Cuccinelli’s 45 percent.

While Virginians do not register by political party, the party self-identification of respondents varies in the Quinnipiac and Post polls.

The Quinnipiac poll, which surveyed 1,182 likely voters Oct. 22-28, showed that among likely voters 29 percent of respondents considered themselves Democrats, 31 percent Republicans and 31 percent independents.

In the Post poll, among likely voters 35 percent of those surveyed considered themselves Democrats, 27 percent Republicans and 33 percent independents.

In Charlottesville Wednesday, Clinton repeatedly cast Cuccinelli as an ideologue. McAuliffe said Cuccinelli’s clash with former University of Virginia climate scientist Michael Mann, who was among the speakers at the rally, sent a “chilling message” to innovators and “embarrassed Virginia across the globe.”

Buoyed by the new Quinnipiac survey, an upbeat Cuccinelli encouraged supporters in Hanover and Chesterfield County to make calls, knock on doors and spread the word of his candidacy.

In the homestretch of a bitter campaign waged by both sides, Cuccinelli has defined the election as a referendum on the Affordable Care Act.

“Send Washington a message that we have had more than enough of Obamacare,” he told the crowd in Hanover. “It’s on the ballot.”

After being stung by criticism of Republicans over the partial federal government shutdown, the anti-Obamacare message could prove a potent talking point for the Cuccinelli, given the well-documented problems with the federal health care website.

McAuliffe supports the act, and backs the expansion of Medicaid in the state — a move that he said would generate thousands of jobs, millions in revenue and provide health care to 400,000 uninsured Virginians.

Cuccinelli said he is thrilled that President Barack Obama will campaign for McAuliffe on Sunday in Arlington County.

“It’s helpful — we are happy to have the focus on Obamacare that the president brings,” Cuccinelli said. “This is a failed program, it’s been a failed program. ... My opponent didn’t think it went far enough. ... The president coming here crystallizes all of that.”

Cuccinelli said poll results lag behind the sentiment of the voters. In a race in which he has trailed for weeks, he thinks his campaign is picking up speed just in time. “What the poll shows is that this is a race that is up for grabs,” he said.

“And we are going to work this race harder than the other side between now and next Tuesday at 7 o’clock.”

omeola@timesdispatch.com (804) 649-6812

jnolan@timesdispatch.com (804) 649-6061

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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