Despite scandal, McDonnell remains popular in Virginia

Updated
AREVA President and CEO Mike Rencheck, left, speaks to Gov. Bob McDonnell during the ribbon cutting ceremony for the opening of the Lynchburg Regional...
AREVA President and CEO Mike Rencheck, left, speaks to Gov. Bob McDonnell during the ribbon cutting ceremony for the opening of the Lynchburg Regional...
Sam O'Keefe/News & Daily Advance/AP

Popular incumbent Gov. Bob McDonnell was supposed to have been one of Ken Cuccinelli’s biggest assets in the Virginia gubernatorial race, but a deepening scandal around the Republican governor’s relationship with a GOP donor has marred McDonnell’s final days.

However, even amid federal and state investigations, McDonnell remains popular in the Old Dominion with just months left in office, according to a new NBC4/NBC News/Marist poll–so McDonnell’s taint can’t be solely to blame for Cuccinelli trailing Democrat Terry McAuliffe.

McDonnell still has a 55% job approval rating among registered voters in Virginia, with 33% disapproving of his performance. Still, that’s a six point drop since a May NBC News poll, where he had a 61% approval rating. President Obama, who won Virginia in last year’s presidential contest, has only a 48% approval rating in the new poll, with 47% disapproving of the job he’s doing.

The May poll was largely before investigations McDonnell’s relationship with Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams intensified, after the governor and his family received over $140,000 in gifts and loans from the dietary supplement maker. McDonnell has repaid and returned the gifts, but remains under investigation.

Voters still say they have a favorable impression of McDonnell, with 53% of likely voters viewing the outgoing governor, who is limited to one term, favorably, and 37% viewing him unfavorably. Even 33% of Democrats still have a positive view of McDonnell, with 70% of Republicans and 53% of independents viewing him favorably, among likely voters.

McDonnell is barred from running again, but he would win re-election in a hypothetical match-up against McAuliffe. Among registered voters, McDonnell would win by five points over McAuliffe, 47%-42%. But that’s down from his 15-point edge in a hypothetical match-up last May.

Voters still remain largely pleased with the Old Dominion’s direction –explaining why Cuccinelli has stressed he would work to continue many of McDonnell’s economic programs.  Among registered voters, 59% say they think Virginia is headed in the right direction, with 36% saying it’s on the wrong track. That’s a slight drop from May, when 61% said the state was moving in the right direction.

Despite scandal, McDonnell remains popular in Virginia

Updated