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Politics & Government

McAuliffe Holds Lead In Va. Governor Contest


This afternoon, President Obama will appear at a rally for Terry McAuliffe, the leading candidate in the Virginia governor's race. It's an election many see as a test of strength ahead of the 2016 presidential race. McAuliffe has been leading his Republican opponent, Ken Cuccinelli, in polls. But the gap between the candidates is tightening ahead of Tuesday's election.

NPR's Allison Keyes tells us voters there don't seem happy with either candidate.

TERRY MCAULIFFE: Hi, everybody.



MCAULIFFE: How ya'll doing?

ALLISON KEYES, BYLINE: A beaming Terry McAuliffe strolled into a volunteer's house in Fairfax yesterday, greeting those who have been canvassing and knocking on doors for the Democratic businessman and fundraiser.


KEYES: In the backyard, he told them they've got to get supporters to the polls to pull it off on Tuesday, especially in an off election year, where turnout could be as low as 30 percent.

MCAULIFFE: There is a lot of great wind behind our back. We need you folks. This election is so, so important.

KEYES: Later, McAuliffe told reporters, in his mind this election is about jobs and economic development, things he says his opponent Ken Cuccinelli doesn't care about.

MCAULIFFE: Every time he gets into office, he focuses on a rigid ideological agenda. He has never shown any interest on jobs and transportation. I supported the transportation package, I've laid out my education reforms. I am for the Medicaid expansion.

KEYES: Meantime, Ken Cuccinelli was greeting supporters in Spotsylvania.


KEN CUCCINELLI: Thank you all very much.

KEYES: Standing on a gazebo on the field where a Civil War battle was fought in 1864, Cuccinelli said McAuliffe may talk about jobs but he doesn't say how he'll create them. And Cuccinelli sought to energize voters by continuing his attack on the Affordable Care Act that he attempted to block.

CUCCINELLI: If you want to send Washington a message that Virginia says no to Obamacare, I need your vote on Tuesday.


KEYES: Cuccinelli told the crowd it was awesome door-knocking weather. And he urged them to help him shock the world on Tuesday with a big win.

CUCCINELLI: We need to talk to folks one at a time. When you're outspent like I'm outspent, I'm counting on you all. Wear that sticker all day.

KEYES: And he has been outspent and crushed in fundraising. McAuliffe has raised more than $35 million, nearly double Cuccinelli's total.

Recent polls show the race is tightening up in its final days. One of them from Christopher Newport University says McAuliffe is leading Cuccinelli by seven points, but Emerson College says that lead is just two points. Polls also show Libertarian candidate Robert Sarvis with around 10 percent of the vote, and that he's pulling votes from Cuccinelli.

Several polls have shown McAuliffe with a strong lead among women and Cuccinelli has been attacked for his conservative positions on abortion and women's reproductive health. In fact, he's faced an uphill battle for support within his own party. Plus, many voters say they are voting again Cuccinelli. One of them is Jaimie Barnett.

JAIMIE BARNETT: I just extremely do not want to see Cuccinelli in office.

KEYES: As she shopped at a Richmond grocery store, she explained she doesn't like Cuccinelli's views on women's rights, so she is reluctantly supporting McAuliffe.

BARNETT: It's pretty much the lesser of two evils.

BILL RAYNER: Neither one of them pleases me 100 percent. But it's the best we got and the only choices we got.

KEYES: Still, Bill Rayner, at a Richmond Virginia grocery store, says he's definitely going to vote.

RAYNER: I'm a conservative voter and I'm not really happy with my vote. But I'm going to vote that way.

KEYES: Sarah Russell, at a Richmond coffee shop, says the whole campaign has been negative and ugly.

SARAH RUSSELL: They've spent way too much money tearing each other down. There's been nothing constructive or redeeming or anything else about it.

KEYES: The candidates have packed schedules leading up to Tuesday's election.

Allison Keyes, NPR News, Washington.


MARTIN: You're listening to NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.