New Attacks a Response to Poll Slip? Survey Shows Cuccinelli Failing to Reach Voters as He Rolls out New Tax Hits

Article excerpt

Byline: David Sherfinski , The Washington Times

A poll released Thursday suggests that Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II's campaign is struggling to reach voters on key points as the Virginia governor's race hits the home stretch, perhaps explaining a new line of attack the Republican's campaign began this week.

Mr. Cuccinelli, the state's attorney general, for months has homed in on three issues related to Terry McAuliffe - the Democrat's ethics and business record, his support of President Obama's health care overhaul, and his positions on energy policy. But the survey from Quinnipiac University says voters give higher marks to Mr. McAuliffe on honesty and trustworthiness, his ability to handle health care, and energy and the environment, among other issues.

Mr. McAuliffe, a businessman and former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, leads Mr. Cuccinelli in the poll overall by eight points, 47 percent to 39 percent, with Libertarian candidate Robert Sarvis taking 8 percent.

Each of the major-party candidates has tried to make jobs and the economy the central themes of their campaigns, and the polls show them fighting to an effective draw on the issues. Despite Mr. McAuliffe's overall lead, 44 percent say he would do a better job handling the economy and 43 percent said the same of Mr. Cuccinelli. Forty-four percent also say Mr. Cuccinelli, who has outlined a $1.4 billion tax-cut plan, would do a better job on the issue of taxes, compared with 40 percent for Mr. McAuliffe, who has knocked the Republican's plan for being too vague.

Mr. Cuccinelli on Wednesday shifted his message, delivering an analysis saying that funding all of Mr. McAuliffe's stated priorities would cost at least $14 billion and translate to a $1,700 tax hike for the average Virginia family.

The McAuliffe campaign said the analysis drew on fabricated numbers and dismissed the attack.

The race, which has been unusually nasty for the generally staid commonwealth, has been defined by the candidates' lambasting one another's ethics and moral standards and their fitness to hold essentially any elected office, let alone governor.

The tone and tenor of this campaign has been negative and very personal, and overcoming it will be the first big challenge for the new governor, said Quentin Kidd, director of Christopher Newport University's Wason Center for Public Policy. This kind of campaign threatens to draw Washington-style politics down to Richmond, something nobody wants.

Most recently, Mr. Cuccinelli assailed Mr. McAuliffe for investing with a Rhode Island estate planner who profited from life-insurance policies issued in the names of terminally ill people without their knowledge. Mr. McAulliffe's campaign said Wednesday after his participation was disclosed in the course of a federal investigation that he had contributed $74,000 to charity - the equivalent of what he received from his connection to the scheme. …