If Bill Bolling hadn't stepped out of the race for governor, polls showed he could have won around 15 percent of the moderate vote. Now with the middle ground up for grabs, the remaining candidates are gearing up for battle.
It's the moderates, the undecided or independent voters still unconvinced by Ken Cuccinelli or Terry McAuliffe, who will define the race. In the wake of Bolling's departure, both camps are now working hard to appeal to the middle.
"The average voter should always question every claim coming from these two camps," said Dr. Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics.
Political posturing is picking up speed in the race to become the next Virginia governor. Republican Cuccinelli and Democrat McAuliffe both know they need moderate votes to win.
"So what do you do? You portray yourself as being in the center," said Sabato.
On his quest for middle ground, Cuccinelli told supporters at a private meeting earlier this week he would not sign a pledge opposing new tax hikes.
A spokesman says Cuccinelli still opposes raising taxes, but said "it's our policy to not sign campaign pledges."
"Candidates who have little to prove don't have to sign the pledge. It seems more moderate than it is, it doesn't really mean anything," said Sabato.
McAuliffe is also hunting for moderates too. In a release, his campaign announced the support of three former republican lawmakers this week: Vince Callahan Jr., Jim Dillard and Katherine Waddell.
"I would have guessed those three, because they've done it before with other Democratic candidates," said Sabato.
That's why, this campaign season, you need to read between the lines and make sure you know the face.
"They're almost always exaggerated claims. Frequently they stretch credibility," said Sabato.
As these candidates compete for the moderate vote, experts say Cuccinelli is at a particular disadvantage, because voters know him, know his policies and know he is associated with the far-right.
McAuliffe, on the other hand, is more of an unknown, and can redefine himself much more easily.
Ed joined the NBC29 news team in May, 2011. A Charlotte, NC, native, he graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with degrees in journalism and political science.Full Story
Ed joined the NBC29 news team in May, 2011. A Charlotte, NC, native, he graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with degrees in journalism and political science. Email/Follow on Twitter/ Full Story