05/30/2013 05:12 pm ET Updated May 30, 2013

The More Virginia Voters Examine Their Candidates For Governor, The Less They Like Their Options

One of the few electoral contests this year that promises to be both high-profile and somewhat competitive is the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad Virginia gubernatorial contest, which looks as if it's going to match nut-sauce social conservative Ken Cuccinelli (R) against soulless political hack Terry McAuliffe (D) in a battle to maximize cynicism about the electoral process.

To my estimation, the charges applied to each candidate fit perfectly. And one of the few fun things that's going on in the Old Dominion is that Virginia Democrats are urging their voters to read Cuccinelli's book, paying special attention to all the nut-sauce social conservative bits, while Virginia Republicans are urging their voters to read McAuliffe's book, paying special attention to all the soulless political hack bits. So no matter what happens, this race will be pretty good for everyone's royalties.

The HuffPost Pollster polling model indicates that the battle between Fear and Loathing has been pretty nip-and-tuck so far this year, with the two candidates essentially tied. The latest result, however, from Public Policy Polling, suggests that Loathing has gained the upper hand, with "McAuliffe leading Cuccinelli by a 5 point margin, 42/37." This pairs well with the most recent Quinnipiac poll of the race, which similarly gave McAuliffe a 5-point lead. (Previously, Cuccinelli was having the better time of it in the polls.)

McAuliffe may have caught himself a bit of break in mid-May, when Virginia Republicans emerged from their state convention having nominated zany conservative pastor E.W. Jackson for lieutenant governor, a move that immediately sent establishment Republicans in the state into a "panic."

As Josh Kraushaar reports Thursday, Jackson's ascension to the ticket is inhibiting Cuccinelli's effort "to downplay his socially conservative background." (Which, by the way, is like Santa Claus trying to "downplay" his associations with reindeer, but never mind.)

The irony, here, for Cuccinelli, is that he's the guy who "engineered the convention process," allowing "single-issue activists" to rule the day, instead of "a wider swath of Republican voters" to dictate the process through a statewide primary vote.

But the most interesting thing about the PPP poll isn't the topline result putting McAuliffe ahead, it's the overall trend that indicates that the more Virginians survey their options, the more they hate them:

PPP's first look at the race for Governor of Virginia since January finds that as voters get to know the candidates better ... more are becoming undecided. That's not the normal trend, but it's also not normal to have an election where voters dislike both candidates five months out.

That's the case here. Terry McAuliffe is not popular, with 29% of voters holding a favorable opinion of him to 33% with a negative one. But we find that Ken Cuccinelli is even more unpopular, with 44% of voters rating him unfavorably to just 32% with a positive opinion.

In other words, it's going to be a bad year, the hardliners say, for the tragic heroes of old VA. Fortunately for everyone, despite the fact that Virginia's transportation infrastructure spending remains a contentious issue statewide, there's still a good chance that there will be several decently maintained highways by which residents may leave the Commonwealth after November.

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United States Governors