August 29, 2013
Virginia's candidates for governor turned a forum on energy policy into an opportunity to criticize each other in northern Virginia on Thursday.
Republican Ken Cuccinelli said Democrat Terry McAuliffe cannot be trusted when it comes to Virginia's coal industry.
"The war on coal is a war on our poor," Cuccinelli said.
Kyle Kondik, a political analyst with the University of Virginia's Center for Politics, says that is a fair argument, but it may not help Cuccinelli get elected.
"That's a good message for southwest Virginia," Kondik said. "But the problem is, there's not enough voters in southwest Virginia to make a huge difference in the race."
McAuliffe used the forum to attack Cuccinelli on women's issues. He held up an article by the Washington Post about Cuccinelli's ties to groups that push for father's rights in custody disputes.
"McAuliffe's strategy here is pretty clear," Kondik said. "That is to try to make Cuccinelli seem unappealing to female voters."
"We cannot move Virginia forward by holding women back," McAuliffe said at the forum.
In the most recent Quinnipiac poll, McAuliffe leads Cuccinelli 50 percent to 38 percent among female voters. That's helping him to get a slight edge overall in the race.
But that same poll also says McAuliffe is perceived as the more negative candidate, although not by much. The poll says 56 percent of voters think McAuliffe spends more time and energy criticizing Cuccinelli than promoting his own ideas. In the same poll, 52 percent of voters said the same thing about Cuccinelli.
"You've got two candidates who have some liabilities," Kondik said. "One wonders if turnout will go down by even more than you might think."
Kondik is predicting turnout to be below 35 percent, which means the most popular choice among voters on election day, would be to stay home.
Still, Kondik says early polls don't always hold true to election day. He has studied the past dozen governor's races in Virginia, and about half the time, the result in November was vastly different than what polls showed around Labor Day.
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