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Poll shows strong lead for Democrat McAuliffe in Virginia governor's race

Democratic nominee for Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe stands onstage as former U.S. President Bill Clinton (unseen) campaigns for him at
Democratic nominee for Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe stands onstage as former U.S. President Bill Clinton (unseen) campaigns for him at

By Gary Robertson

RICHMOND, Virginia (Reuters) - Democrat Terry McAuliffe has a 12-point lead among likely voters over Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli in the race to become Virginia's next governor, according to a Washington Post-ABT-SRBI poll published Monday.

According to the poll, 51 percent favored McAuliffe, to Cuccinelli's 39 percent. Libertarian candidate Robert Sarvis, who has achieved favor among voters who say they don't like either of the major party candidates, had 8 percent.

The outcome of the Virginia's gubernatorial election November 5 is viewed as a possible bellwether of mid-term Congressional elections in 2014.

The hotly contested gubernatorial race has drawn intense national attention and stars from both parties to Virginia.

President Barack Obama will join McAuliffe on Sunday at a rally.

Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor who in 2008 sought the Republican presidential nomination, appeared earlier this month at a rally for Cuccinelli at Liberty University in Lynchburg, a conservative, Christian college founded by the late Jerry Falwell.

McAuliffe, meanwhile, has called on the potent Democratic husband-and-wife team of former U.S. President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of state Hillary Clinton.

McAuliffe has raised millions for each of them, during various election campaigns. He is a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and also the former chairman of the Hillary Clinton for President Committee.

In nearly every poll since July, McAuliffe has held the lead over Cuccinelli, according to a compilation of major polls by RealClear Politics, a Chicago-based political news and polling data aggregator.

"This contest is becoming very one-sided," said Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics.

FUNDRAISING ADVANTAGE

McAuliffe not only dominates in recent polls, but he has a huge fundraising advantage over Cuccinelli, Sabato said.

According to new numbers posted Monday by the nonpartisan Virginia Public Access Project, McAuliffe raised $8.1 million to Cuccinelli's $2.9 million, between October 1-23.

Overall totals show that McAuliffe has raised $34 million to just under $20 million for Cuccinelli.

Growing unrest with Cuccinelli, whose strongly conservative views apparently have alienated a large portion of the electorate, is reflected in poll results.

For example, among those supporting McAuliffe, 64 percent said they were voting against Cuccinelli rather than voting for McAuliffe.

About 44 percent of Cuccinelli's supporters said they were voting against McAuliffe, rather than for the attorney general

Two other Democrats on the ballot are leading their Republican opponents, pointing to the possibility of the first Democratic sweep of statewide offices in Virginia since 1989.

Ralph Northam, the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, leads Republican E.W. Jackson by 52 percent to 39 percent among likely voters.

In the crucial and closely contested attorney general's race to determine who would succeed Cuccinelli, Democrat Mark Herring edges Republican Mark Obenshain 49 percent to 46 percent. But that is well within the poll's 4.5 percent margin of error in its sample of likely voters, meaning that the attorney general's the race is virtually tied.

The Washington Post/ Abt-SRBI poll was conducted by telephone October 24-27, among a random sample of 1,251 adults in Virginia.

(Reporting by Gary Robertson; Editing by Sharon Bernstein and Lisa Shumaker)

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