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.