Political Analyst: Governor’s Race Leans toward McAuliffe

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There is a new twist in the race for governor: one of Virginia's top political experts says Democrat Terry McAuliffe now has a slight advantage over Republican Ken Cuccinelli. But this is still anybody's ball game.

University of Virginia political expert Larry Sabato has held off on making any major predictions in the race for governor. But now, heading into Labor Day weekend, his team at the UVA Center for Politics says this race is leaning Democratic.

In campaign politics, Labor Day weekend is often considered the beginning of the end. And now, a new prognostication is coming into focus inside Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball.

"As of Labor Day weekend here, it does appear that Terry McAuliffe has a slight edge in this race. We now view it as leans Democratic," said Center for Politics analyst Geoff Skelley.

Recent polling put McAuliffe up between four and eight points over Cuccinelli. The Democrat also maintains a significant fundraising advantage. And analysts say Governor Bob McDonnell's gifts scandal, which is still under federal investigation, has weighed on Cuccinelli and the Republican ticket.

"We believe that McAuliffe has a slight edge, but this does not mean that Cuccinelli can't win," Skelley said.

The Center for Politics notes that in 11 Virginia gubernatorial races since 1969, campaigns have seen big changes in the final stretch, often reversing Labor Day predictions.

"I think Cuccinelli still has plenty of time to come back; this race is far from decided," Skelley said.

But to change the momentum of the race, analysts say something big will have to happen. That could come down to new, negative revelations, a debate gaffe, or political turbulence in Washington.

Simply put: in a race this negative, one often described as a "race to the bottom," anything could happen.

"Each candidate is facing the one candidate he can beat. And you know, that says a lot," Skelley said.

The Center for Politics lists the race for lieutenant governor as a likely Democratic victory, which could give Democrats control of the equally divided state Senate.

It lists the attorney general race is still a toss-up.

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