Poll: McAuliffe with slim lead, with Sarvis as wild card

state-capitol2Democrat Terry McAuliffe has a slim 44 percent-41 percent lead over Republican Ken Cuccinelli in a tight Virginia governor’s race, according to a new poll released today by Quinnipiac University.

An interesting wild card in the race is the showing in the polls of Libertarian nominee Robert Sarvis, who is at 7 percent in the current polling.

Third-party candidates in Virginia races have had trouble holding onto their early support all the way through to November. What happens to Sarvis’ 7 percent could be key heading down the stretch.

“Terry McAuliffe is less disliked than State Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. Voters are not wild about either man, and that may be one reason why Libertarian Robert Sarvis is running so well,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. “History tells us that third-party candidates tend to experience shrinking support as Election Day nears. If Sarvis does get 7 percent of the actual vote, that would reflect not just his strength but the weakness of the major-party candidates.”

There’s no indication right now in the polling who Sarvis might be affecting more in the polling. His strongest demographic is independent voters, 14 percent of whom are saying right now that they will support the Libertarian.

Three percent of Republicans and 2 percent of Democrats are indicating support for Sarvis.

Whether the Sarvis electorate grows, holds steady, retreats completely or breaks for one or the other of the major-party candidates is the question of the election.

“Since there are more people in Virginia who now consider themselves Democrats than Republicans, logic says that Cuccinelli needs a solid margin among independent voters.  Instead, these voters are divided 37-37 percent between the Democrat and Republican,” Brown added.

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