Before the candidates hit the stage for Wednesday's prime-time debate, new poll numbers are adding fuel to the fire in the Virginia governor's race.
The two polls released Monday, one from NBC News and another from the Washington Post, tell similar stories. They put Democrat Terry McAuliffe up over Ken Cuccinelli, with female voters playing a big role in the results.
McAuliffe leads by five points in the NBC4/NBC News/Marist poll, 43 to 38. Among women, he leads by a whopping 18 points, while Cuccinelli only has an eight-point edge among male voters.
In the Washington Post poll, McAuliffe leads by eight points overall. It gives McAuliffe a 24-point lead among women, and Cuccinelli a still smaller 13-point lead among males.
University of Virginia political expert Larry Sabato says Cuccinelli has no choice but to be very aggressive in Wednesday's live debate, even though it could continue to cost him in the eyes of women.
"You have a relatively competitive race, but a steady and somewhat hardening McAuliffe lead. Cuccinelli might actually aggravate his already deadly problem with women by going hard negative, but what else is he to do?" Sabato said.
The Cuccinelli campaign is trying to find a silver lining in the results, noting that their candidate has far more enthusiastic supporters than McAuliffe.
Also, averaging the past six public polls, McAuliffe holds a smaller lead just around 4 percent. But results show Cuccinelli will also have to overcome significantly lower favorability among voters.
Watch the live gubernatorial debate Wednesday night at 7 p.m. on NBC29.