Northern Virginia Bureau chief Julie Carey explains new polls in the Virginia gubernatorial race and why the results are changing in the week leading up to the election.
With just days until Election Day, three new polls gave contrasting views of the race for Virginia governor -- but all showed that undecided voters and a Libertarian candidate could have a big role in the closely-watched race's outcome.
A new Quinnipiac University poll found the race to become Virginia's next governor has tightened. However, a poll from Roanoke College said that Democrat Terry McAuliffe had opened a 15-point lead over Republican Ken Cuccinelli.
Meanwhile, a poll from Hampton University showed McAuliffe with a steady lead of 6 points.
According to the Quinnipiac poll, McAuliffe is clinging to a four-point lead, with 45 percent of likely voters favoring him to Cuccinelli's 41 percent. Libertarian candidate Robert Sarvis dropped to nine percent, a one point drop from a poll released by Quinnipiac last week.
Quinnipiac says if Sarvis were not in the race, the margin between McAuliffe and Cuccinelli would be even closer, with McAuliffe favored 47 percent to Cuccinelli's 45 percent.
"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," said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. "Nationally, third-party candidates often lose support in the end as voters enter the voting booth and back someone they consider the lesser of two evils."
Both campaigns quickly released statements on the poll. Cuccinelli's said, "For the past several weeks, political pundits have written off Ken Cuccinelli well before any polls have opened or closed, but we have consistently maintained that we know this is a margin race as exhibited in today’s Quinnipiac University poll."
McAuliffe's said: "The last days of this election will be about making sure those who are focused on issues like transportation, education, and diversifying the economy vote on November 5th."
But the Roanoke College poll said McAuliffe was leading with 46 percent of those polled, versus 31 percent for Cuccinelli. Fourteen percent of Virginia voters remain undecided, the poll said.
Sarvis had 9 percent in the Roanoke College poll.
Those findings are close to those of a Washington Post/Abt SRBI poll released Tuesday, which put McAuliffe ahead with a double-digit lead over his Republican counterpart. Fifty-one percent of likely voters favored McAuliffe over Ken Cuccinelli in the race for governor, while 39 percent favored Cuccinelli in that poll. Eight percent of those polled supported Libertarian Robert Sarvis.
The Washington Post poll surveyed 762 likely voters between Oct. 24 to Oct. 27 while the Quinnipiac University poll spoke with 1,182 voters between Oct. 22 and Oct. 28. The Roanoke College poll interviewed 838 likely voters in Virginia between Oct. 21 and Oct. 27.
And the Hampton University poll showed McAuliffe with 42 percent of likely voters, compared to Cuccinelli's 36 percent. That poll had Sarvis at 12 percent of those polled, up from 8 percent a month ago.
In the last days of their campaign, the candidates have taken to the campaign trail with big names.
Tuesday Cuccinelli and GOP favorite, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, campaigned in Prince William County while McAuliffe continued a four-day tour of the state with former President Bill Clinton.
Monday night, GOP faithful packed a reception hall in Fairfax County to show support for Cuccinelli and to hear from Tea Party favorite Sen. Rand Paul. Meanwhile, Democrats gathered to hear from McAuliffe -- and his friend, former President Bill Clinton.
Clinton and McAuliffe will head to Charlottesville and Roanoke Wednesday.
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