Shutdown Takes A Toll On GOP In Virginia Governor's Race : It's All Politics Republican Ken Cuccinelli had been trailing Democrat Terry McAuliffe by a few points in the polls before the partial government shutdown. But since then, McAuliffe's lead has clearly widened in a state that's home to many federal employees.
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Shutdown Takes A Toll On GOP In Virginia Governor's Race

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Shutdown Takes A Toll On GOP In Virginia Governor's Race

Shutdown Takes A Toll On GOP In Virginia Governor's Race

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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From NPR News this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.


And I'm Robert Siegel. It's been 11 days since the federal government closed for business and polls show that voters are placing most of the blame on Republicans. In Virginia, the Republican Party's unpopularity is taking a toll on the governor's race. In a state where many federal employees live and a lot of federal dollars are spent, the GOP candidate for governor is rapidly falling out of favor. NPR'S Brian Naylor reports.

BRIAN NAYLOR, BYLINE: Marsha Rippy is a legal assistant in Hopewell, Virginia, not far from Richmond, and near Fort Lee, a big Army base. She says the federal government shutdown has taken a toll in her community.

MARSHA RIPPY: I have friends that have been furloughed. I have friends who are contractors, whose contracts are in jeopardy because of the furlough.

NAYLOR: Rippy has been active in Republican Party politics for 15 years but she says this November, she will not be voting for the party's gubernatorial candidate, State Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. The reason? She says Cuccinelli's too close to the Tea Party wing of the GOP, which she holds responsible for the federal shutdown.

RIPPY: I view them as too extreme and harmful to the country. I just simply cannot support a candidate that endorses their platform.

NAYLOR: And Rippy is not alone. Michael Karabinos, who works for a health insurance company in Richmond, says he voted for outgoing Republican Governor Bob McDonnell four years ago. But in this election, he's voting for the Libertarian candidate.

MICHAEL KARABINOS: Giving Cuccinelli a win is also giving a win to the same branch of the Republican Party that's pushing this shutdown. It's the party that left me behind.

NAYLOR: Cuccinelli is strongly conservative, especially on social issues. Until the past week or so, opinion polls had him trailing former Democratic Party Chairman Terry McAuliffe by a few points. But in surveys taken since the government shutdown, McAuliffe's lead has clearly widened - in some polls, into double-digits. Brock McCleary us head of Harper Polling.

BROCK MCCLEARY: It's a myriad of factors. Part of it is money, part of it is the issue matrix, but you can't doubt the fact that the shutdown is having a negative impact for Republicans in Virginia.

NAYLOR: Quentin Kidd, a political scientist at Christopher Newport University in Newport News, says the shutdown fits into a larger narrative that's formed about Cuccinelli, that he's just like the Republicans in Congress.

QUENTIN KIDD: He filed a lawsuit against the Affordable Health Care Act, he sued the EPA. He's essentially a Tea Party Republican. And the government shutdown and the presence of Ted Cruz in Virginia this last weekend links Ken Cuccinelli to that shutdown in an important way, I think, in the minds of voters.

NAYLOR: Cruz, the Republican Texas Senator and architect of the shutdown and Cuccinelli both appeared at a fundraiser for a conservative group in Richmond last weekend. They were not on stage together but Democrat McAuliffe wasted no time in making a connection in a radio spot.


NARRATOR: It's no surprise that Cuccinelli supports the Tea Party in Congress now. It's Terry McAuliffe who's joining common-sense Americans in asking that we open the government and stop the political games that are hurting Virginia families. Let's reject Cruz's and Cuccinelli's extreme approach.

NAYLOR: Cuccinelli has done his best to distance himself from the federal shutdown. In a forum at the University of Richmond last night, he tried turning the tables on McAuliffe, charging the Democrat had threatened to shut down state government.

KEN CUCCINELLI: My opponent was saying that he would not sign a Virginia budget that didn't include the Medicaid expansion, which is admittedly controversial. But he said, I will not sign such a budget. Folks, in Virginia, that's a government shutdown.

NAYLOR: Virginians throughout the state will certainly welcome an end to the federal shutdown, none more so than Ken Cuccinelli. But with a little more than three weeks left to campaign, a resolution may come too late to do Cuccinelli much good on Election Day. Brian Naylor, NPR News.

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