01/09/2013 08:35 am ET Updated Jan 09, 2013

Virginia Governor Poll: Terry McAuliffe, Ken Cuccinelli In Dead Heat

Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican State Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli are locked in a competitive race still taking shape for Virginia's governorship, two polls released this week found, with the impact of an independent challenge from Republican Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling still unclear.

McAuliffe runs nearly even with Cuccinelli, 40 to 39, in a Quinnipiac poll released Wednesday -- a tightening of the race since mid-November, when McAuliffe led by 4 points, according to the poll.

Bolling would garner 13 percent, taking support from both rivals and leaving them tied at 34 percent.

All three have relatively low name recognition, with Cuccinelli the best known. He and McAuliffe have similar net favorable ratings among those who have heard of him.

"While all three candidates for governor have run statewide previously, voter memories are short and they are little-known to Virginia voters," said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. "It goes without saying that with this relatively low level of voter recognition it will be some time before the shape of the race becomes clear. What is clear is that as an independent Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling faces a pretty stiff uphill climb should he decide to run."

A Tuesday poll from the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling gave McAuliffe a small edge over Cuccinelli, 46 percent to 41 percent. PPP also found Cuccinelli suffering from a 16-point net negative rating, much higher than those of his opponents.

“Ken Cuccinelli’s unpopularity is really the story of the race at this point,” said Dean Debnam, president of PPP. "“Even to a decent number of Republicans he is an unacceptable candidate, and that could give Bill Bolling an opening to run a viable independent campaign.”

In the survey, Bolling took 15 percent in a three-way matchup, giving McAuliffe an 8-point lead.

The Quinnipiac poll interviewed 1,134 registered voters by phone between Jan. 4 and Jan. 7, with a 2.9 percent margin of error. The PPP poll surveyed 602 voters between Jan. 4 and Jan. 6 using automated phone calls, with a 4 percent margin of error.



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