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Government shutdown boosts Democrat in Virginia governor's race

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democrat Terry McAuliffe has opened a wide lead over Republican Ken Cuccinelli, a Tea Party favorite, in the Virginia governor's race amid public disapproval of the federal government shutdown, according to a Politico poll.

Four weeks from Election Day, McAuliffe, a former national Democratic Party chairman, leads Cuccinelli, Virginia's attorney general, 44 percent to 35 percent, with 12 percent backing for Libertarian Robert Sarvis, the survey released late on Monday showed.

Politico said its poll was the first snapshot of the Virginia race to take into account the impact of the closure of the federal government.

"McAuliffe has led Cuccinelli in the mid-single digits in both public and private polling; his margin is wider in the Politico poll, and the shutdown is the most obvious explanation for that," the website and newspaper said.

The shutdown was triggered by demands from Republicans, especially those aligned with the small-government Tea Party movement, to defund or delay Obama's healthcare program as a condition of passing a spending bill.

The shutdown, now in its second week, has had an outsize impact on Virginia because of the many military and government jobs there. Moody's Investors Service said on Monday that federal workers made up 12.6 percent of employment in the Washington area, including northern Virginia, versus 2.1 percent nationally.

Sixty-two percent of respondents said they opposed the government "shutting down over funding for the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare." Thirty-one percent said they supported the shutdown.

Fifty percent of respondents said they blamed Republicans in Congress most for the shutdown, while 35 percent said they blamed President Barack Obama and Senate Democrats. Fifteen percent of likely voters said they blamed both sides equally.

The survey found that Democratic voters were more likely to blame the shutdown on Republicans, while Republicans blamed Democrats. Among independents, 48 percent blamed Republicans, while 33 percent blamed Obama and Senate Democrats.

The Democratic firm Public Policy Polling and Republican firm Harper Polling conducted the survey, which polled 1,150 likely voters on Saturday and Sunday and has a margin of error of 2.9 percentage points.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson and Scott Malone; Editing by Philip Barbara)

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