A Newsmax/Zogby Poll shows that with one week to go before Virginians elect a new governor, Democrat Terry McAuliffe is leading Republican Ken Cuccinelli by a margin of 35.5 percent to 30.4 percent, with Libertarian candidate Robert Sarvis gathering enough support to tip the balance.
Although McAuliffe's campaign spending advantage and the scandals surrounding outgoing Republican Gov. Robert McDonnell are the most oft-cited reasons for Cuccinelli's underdog status, Zogby's polling shows that Sarvis is hurting the state attorney general's chances.
In figures released Tuesday, Zogby found that among likely Virginia voters, lawyer and high-tech entrepreneur Sarvis drew 9 percent of the preference for the Nov. 5 contest, with 6.8 percent preferring another candidate and 18.3 percent undecided — an unusually high number of undecided voters at this late date, veteran pollster John Zogby told Newsmax.
When the "undecided" voters were removed from the survey, Zogby found that McAuliffe, a former Democratic national chairman, led Cuccinelli by 43 percent to 37 percent and Sarvis drew 11 percent, while 8 percent selected another candidate.
"Republicans do have cause to be worried, and yes, Sarvis is hurting Cuccinelli more than McAuliffe," Zogby told Newsmax shortly after the release of his survey. "What is especially important is that, among voters who are aged 18 to 29, Sarvis draws 24 percent — one in four voters."
Zogby said Sarvis has "energized many young people and, if the Libertarian theme resonates here, it could easily become a national theme. And this would make Virginia a major swing state in 2016 and beyond."
Zogby's figures in the two surveys, showing Sarvis at 9 percent and 11 percent, are particularly significant.
Under Virginia election law, should Sarvis draw 10 percent of the vote, the Libertarian Party will have an automatic state ballot position in 2014, 2015, and 2016. That will give the party positions for which to nominate candidates for Congress, Senate, or whatever other state office is on the Virginia ballot in those years.
With a campaign notable for its negative tone coming to a close, Zogby also pointed to the unfavorable ratings of each of the major candidates as reasons why Sarvis is doing unusually well for a third-party contender in the twilight of the campaign.
Where Cuccinelli is rated "very unfavorably" by 30.2 percent of likely voters, McAuliffe is rated "very unfavorably" by 24.2 percent.
Zogby said this clearly demonstrates that both McAuliffe and Cuccinelli are "flawed candidates," and while McAuliffe leads among voters who consider themselves "independent," an unusually high 27 percent of that group is undecided.
In addition, the survey showed that among African-American voters, one in three was undecided a week before the balloting.
"With all these undecided voters at this late date, it simply means they will not vote, so anything can happen," Zogby said. "But for now, I would say that the Libertarian hitting double digits is very doable, and that could very well be one of the big stories Nov. 5."
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.