NBC/Marist poll: Dead heat in Virginia, but Cuccinelli still winning the "intensity advantage"

A new NBC/Marist poll on Virginia’s gubernatorial race — a.k.a., the only competitive governor’s race in the country in 2013 — released this morning has some slightly different findings than the WaPo poll from last weekend, which had Republican candidate Ken Cuccinelli edging Democrat Terry McAuliffe with a five-point lead among Virginia voters; the NBC poll has McAuliffe beating Cuccinelli by a within-the-margin-of-error 43 to 41 percent among registered voters. Cuccinelli, however, has some very distinct advantages going for him — Virginia voters are more familiar with the state attorney general than they are the former DNC chairman, as well as a 45-42 lead with likely voters.

Part of that slight tilt to Cuccinelli is because the “intensity advantage” is with the GOP attorney general: 53% of Cuccinelli’s backers strongly support him, compared with 47% for McAuliffe. Fifty-one percent approve of Cuccinelli’s performance as attorney general, with 24% disapproving and a quarter unsure.

But there’s certainly time, and room, for the former DNC chairman to grow. Of those polled, 44% say they’ve never heard of the longtime Democratic fundraiser and businessman, compared to just 32% who said the same about Cuccinelli. …

For all Democrats’ efforts to paint the sitting attorney general as too conservative or outside the mainstream, those ideas haven’t taken root in voters’ minds. Just 27% say the Republican is too conservative, with a 39% plurality of voters saying he’s just right on issues. For McAuliffe, 28% see him as too liberal, while 33% see him as just right.

Again, though, the biggest takeaway is that this is clearly nothing like the blowout shaping up in Chris Christie’s favor in New Jersey — this is going to be a rough battle for the indie vote and both parties are going to be throwing everything they have at this race, ’cause purplish Virginia is a big win that will set some of the tone for 2014 campaigns all over the place.

Both men also have solidified their base, with 91% of registered voters backing their own party’s nominee. The two are deadlocked with independent voters at 36% each, with over a quarter of independents still up for grabs.

Both campaigns have really started rolling in earnest; the sparring over the women’s vote is already well under way, and both candidates are going for tax-cuting plans to define their economic platforms:

Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II said Tuesday that if elected governor, he would cut business and individual income taxes by $1.4 billion a year and build on Gov. Robert F. McDonnell’s “Bob’s for jobs!” slogan. …

Cuccinelli’s plan calls for cutting the corporate income tax rate from 6 percent to 4 percent over four years and reducing the individual income tax rate from 5.75 percent to 5 percent over that period. …

As a few details of Cuccinelli’s plan began to leak out last week, his Democratic opponent, Terry McAuliffe, released a proposal of his own. It calls for eliminating or reducing the business, professional and occupational license tax, the machinery and tool tax, and the merchants’ capital tax.