Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli responds to a reporter's question as he meets backstage with the news media following his participation in the Battleground Forum, Friday, Aug. 9, 2013, at the Prince William campus of George Mason University in Manassas, Va.
Cliff Owen/ap

Cuccinelli struggles with GOP base as McAuliffe leads in Virginia

Updated

It’s not the government shutdown that may be most to blame if Republican Ken Cuccinelli loses the Virginia governor’s race, but instead the candidate’s weak support from his own GOP base.

A Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday morning shows the Republican attorney general still trailing Terry McAuliffe by margins comparable to other polling, with the Democratic nominee leading Cuccinelli by seven points, 46%-39%. Libertarian candidate Robert Sarvis trails behind with 10% of the vote.

But while McAuliffe is getting 92% of Democratic likely voters, with just 3% going to Cuccinelli and 2% to Sarvis, the divide for the GOP nominee is much more troublesome with less than two weeks until Election Day. Cuccinelli is getting just 81% of Republicans, with 6% going to McAuliffe and 11% breaking for Sarvis. The two major party nominees are evenly split among independent voters, each taking 39%, but Sarvis is getting 14% of the critical bloc. 

“Generally over the past decades, especially in southern states like Virginia, Republicans win when they have strong party allegiance among their base,” Quinnipiac University Polling Institute assistant director Peter A. Brown writes in the polling memo. “If Cuccinelli can’t bring more Republicans home, he is likely to be toast.”

In recent weeks, Cuccinelli has been working to motivate his conservative base. He campaigned last weekend with former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, held a rally with other state attorneys general on Monday in opposition to the president’s health care plan and held a campaign call Tuesday evening with Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). 

And while polls have shown Cuccinelli slipping amid the government shutdown, 45%-35% say that McAuliffe’s position on the shutdown is closer to their own than Cuccinelli’s. On Monday, the attorney general said he “didn’t know” whether he would have voted for the compromise that eventually ended the stalemate. 

As in other polls, McAuliffe still has an edge with female voters, though the 14-point margin, 49%-35%, is smaller than an NBC4/NBC News/Marist poll released last week

Ultimately, voters in the Old Dominion are fed up with the nasty gubernatorial battle—58% say they have an unfavorable view of the 2013 race, with 34% of those saying it’s “strongly unfavorable.”

And in what has been described as a race to the bottom, both candidates have high negative numbers, though Cuccinelli’s are a bigger drag. Forty-three percent of voters have a negative opinion of McAuliffe, while 39% have a positive view. But 52% have negative opinions of Cuccinelli, while just 38% see him positively.

Ken Cuccinelli, Terry Mcauliffe and Virginia Governors

Cuccinelli struggles with GOP base as McAuliffe leads in Virginia

Updated