Quinnipiac has its first poll of likely voters  out and it shows Terry McAuliffe leading Ken Cuccinelli by six points. The driving force in this poll, and behind the numbers? Trust:
Honesty is the most important quality Virginia likely voters are considering when they choose a candidate as 58 percent of voters say a candidate’s “honesty and trustworthiness” are “extremely important” while 35 percent say “very important.” Voters are divided 39 – 36 percent on whether McAuliffe is honest and trustworthy, and are divided 42 – 43 percent on Cuccinelli’s honesty.
That McAuliffe registers a number greater than zero on trust or honesty will come as a shock to those who’ve read the dossiers on the guy. But most voters don’t do such things and, frankly, don’t seem to care. Yet.
And then there is this, which makes me lose my faith in Virginia:
Voters care more about empathy than experience which helps explain McAuliffe’s lead.
But there’s even more:
“It seems obvious that Gov. Bob McDonnell’s political troubles are hurting fellow Republican Cuccinelli. Guilt by association may not be fair, but it sure is politically powerful. Trust matters and at this point neither man is doing all that well in that category.”
Bob the albatross. That was inevitable given the cascade of stories over the past few months. But it is not an excuse.
Cuccinelli is behind and, based on these numbers, it’s because of a yawning gender gap and Ken’s apparent lack of empathy. Those are dog whistles. The real term for the gap: social issues. Plain, simple and clear. McAuliffe has been beating Cuccinelli like a mule over social issues for months. unfairly or not, it has an effect on voter perception. And it’s right out of the Obama playbook.
Bob McDonnell was a strong social conservative who won convincingly in 2009. But he had a central, simple, theme: Bob’s for Jobs. In 2009, that trumped everything.
Update…Not So Fast
My occasional writing partner Paul Goldman thinks Quinnipiac is making a rather bold, if not historic, statement  about Virginia’s electorate:
Historically speaking, the Q-Poll is making a bold statement: namely, the Virginia is a now a Democratic state, “blue” as they say, no longer “purple” having left “red” in the rear view mirror. Why? If you dig into the poll just a little – indeed it is clear from the first set of numbers to anyone who knows VA politics – the pollsters are predicting that contrary to all previous history, the 2013 in an off-year GUV race will match the presidential year turnout model for 2008 and 2012. THIS HAS NEVER HAPPENED BEFORE, NOT EVEN CLOSE.
He has a lengthy explanation of why Quinnipiac may think this time is different, and for those interested in the alchemy of polling, it’s worth the read.
The most interesting nugget? I thought it was this:
The $20 million or so that has been spent TO DATE by the candidates attacking each other HAS NOT MOVED A SINGLE VOTER on a collective basis.
Which is terrible news if you’re a candidate, but money in the bank if you’re a consultant.