The latest temperature-taking of the Virginia gubernatorial race came from an NBC/Marist poll on Friday, and was another harbinger of a less-than-stellar outcome for Cuccinelli:

With 18 days left in Virginia’s gubernatorial race, Democrat Terry McAuliffe has an eight-point lead over his Republican opponent, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, gaining three points among likely voters since September, according to the latest NBC4/NBC News/Marist poll.

The former head of the Democratic National Committee leads Mr. Cuccinelli 46% to 38%, with Libertarian candidate Robert Sarvis at 9%. In September, the same poll found Mr. McAuliffe leading 43% to 38%, with Mr. Sarvis at 8%.

The government shutdown may have given the McAuliffe campaign a boost. Among registered voters in Virginia, 54% say the Republican members in Congress are to blame for the shutdown, while 29% think President Barack Obama is mostly to blame. A notable 39% of Virginians say they or a family member have experienced changes to their employment status, services, or benefits.

The repercussions of the shutdown combined with McAuliffe’s monetary advantages are definitely not doing the Republican candidate any favors; driving in my car on Friday afternoon, I was treated to yet another McAuliffe-sponsored radio ad in which a dark voice suggested in nefarious tones that Ken Cuccinelli has campaigned with Ted Cruz, gasp, and something about how he would just love to bring shutdown tactics to Virginia, blah blah blah.

That said, off-year elections in Virginia have displayed at least an erstwhile tendency to tilt slightly Republican, and that seems to be the approach on which the Cuccinelli camp is now ready to go all-out. In the GOP’s weekly address this morning, the candidate touted his creds as the first of 27 attorneys general to challenge ObamaCare’s constitutionality and pulled no punches in ripping the law as a “hallmark of a reckless federal government that has lost its way”:

Most importantly, we need to reverse the perverse incentives that have raised the cost of insurance premiums and have forced employers to drop health care benefits and full-time jobs in order to stay in business.

Our health care system should be transparent at all levels and provide pricing to inform and empower American families.

We should support market based solutions for health care reform and empower patients free of government control. More and more government in health care has proven to make it worse, not better! America needs to go the other way, trusting our people and our doctors to work out a system that’s best for healthcare, not marching to the senseless beat of some far off government drum.

If the politicians who gave us this train wreck expect us to live by this law, then the same law without special exemptions should apply to Congress. Is that really too much to ask?

ObamaCare serves as a grave threat to the future prosperity of the citizens of Virginia, and I’ll continue to resist expanding it. Not just in Washington, but in every state in America. I promise that I’ll do my part in Virginia, and I know you’ll do yours! Together we can make America better tomorrow than it is today.

And on Saturday afternoon, he was campaigning in southwestern Virginia with Mike Huckabee — gettin’ that base fired up, via Politico:

Ken Cuccinelli thinks his best hope for a comeback in the final three weeks of a Virginia governor’s race that has drifted away from him is to focus on driving up conservative turnout.

So a few hours after Hillary Clinton stumps for Democrat Terry McAuliffe Saturday in Northern Virginia, the Republican will campaign with Mike Huckabee next to Liberty University in the conservative stronghold of Lynchburg.

The former presidential candidate and current Fox News analyst is one of several high-profile, right-wing surrogates coming to the commonwealth during the home stretch. Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, who became famous as a Fox talking head, will appear with Cuccinelli on Monday. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) comes to Virginia Beach the following Monday. …

“It is always natural in an off year in the last few weeks to do everything to turn out your base,” said Cuccinelli strategist Chris LaCivita. “The party that takes its base vote for granted in an off-, off-year loses.”