One of Gov. Bob McDonnell’s biggest strategic victories during the 2009 election was carefully courting and ultimately sweeping Northern Virginia, one of the Old Dominion’s fastest-growing regions that has helped to push Virginia from the red to the purple category in recent years. Northern Virginia just so happens to be chock-full of federal employees and government contractors (and also just happens to be composed of some of the richest counties in the United States, ahem), and many of those federal workers have been staying home this week as a result of shutdown furloughs. Ergo, the shutdown presents both Terry McAuliffe and Ken Cuccinelli with the opportunity to spin the circumstances of the shutdown to their own best advantage, and neither has lost any time.

The McAuliffe crew released a television ad on Thursday linking up Cuccinelli with that oh-so-dreaded “Ted Cruz”-brand of conservatism:

Via the Washington Post:

But Cuccinelli has said he does not support efforts to shut down the government over the law. In recent days, he has called for federal workers to be paid during the shutdown, and for members of Congress to go without their paychecks until the issue is resolved.

His campaign also said that the video snippet from 2006 was taken out of context, and that Cuccinelli had proposed enacting an interim spending plan that year to keep state government working in case a budget deal could not be reached.

“Terry McAuliffe is the only candidate in this race who has called for a government shutdown and he’s the only candidate who has said one side shouldn’t negotiate with the other to work out a solution,” Cuccinelli spokeswoman Anna Nix said via e-mail. “Make no mistake, McAuliffe will bring Washington, D.C. style tactics and brinksmanship straight to Richmond.”

Team Cuccinelli, meanwhile, is going with a new radio ad (keep in mind that lifetime Democratic fundraiser McAuliffe has rather a larger heap of funds at his ad-budget disposal) referencing McAuliffe’s pledge to only sign a state budget plan that includes ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion:

All of the furloughs could very well prove to be a powerful factor in swaying the NoVa counties, but for now, here’s another new poll pointing to a Democratic edge in a still-open race:

A new Hampton University poll in the Virginia governor’s race shows Democrat Terry McAuliffe leading Republican Ken Cuccinelli II by 5 points in a contest that still appears up for grabs, pollsters said Thursday. …

The new statewide poll of likely voters — an inaugural effort by Hampton University’s Center for Public Policy — found that McAuliffe has 42 percent support compared with 37 percent for Cuccinelli, largely because of McAuliffe’s sizable backing from women and African-American voters.

Robert Sarvis, a Libertarian, received 8 percent. The Hampton University poll found that Sarvis has attracted interest across the board and draws almost evenly from Democrats and Republicans. The poll’s overall margin of error was 2.9 percent.