In the tightly contested Virginia gubernatorial race, Republican candidate Ken Cuccinelli apparently spent the weekend alternately cajoling and avoiding Sen. Ted Cruz, architect of the shutdown. Polls suggest that his frustration with the shutdown could be a preview for his party in other contested races across the country.
On Friday, CNN reported a frank admission from Cuccinelli about the how the ongoing shutdown is playing in his state. "Yes, it is affecting the campaign," he told the press after an event in Fairfax. A number of polls showed Cuccinelli trailing even before the shutdown took effect. But the candidate's emphasis on how his party's intransigence on the shutdown serves both to distance him from that position and suggests that not doing so could further imperil his chances.
It didn't prevent Cuccinelli from making an appearance at an event headlined by Cruz on Saturday. According to Politico's James Hohmann, Cuccinelli spoke briefly before Cruz's longer address. Hohmann describes Cruz's introduction.
Guy introducing Cruz says many think he’s the most powerful man in Washington – more so than Obama. Praises him for shutting down the govt.— James Hohmann (@jameshohmann) October 6, 2013
"Backstage, a source said, Cuccinelli urged Cruz to work with Democrats to end the federal shutdown," Hohmann writes. "But he did not make that point, or even acknowledge Cruz, in short public comments to some 1,100 social conservatives." Cuccinelli left without posing for a picture with Cruz.
Virginia is more susceptible to the shutdown than many states. It's proximity to the capital and presence of various military installations means that a large portion of the state relies on the government for employment. A report from Trulia released shortly before the shutdown began indicated that two of the three metropolitan regions most heavily impacted by the closures overlapped with the state. But it's by no means the only place affected by closures; even those places with the lowest percentages of people employed by the federal government generally see about one percent of the population with such jobs.
So it's not terribly surprising that new surveys, conducted for the liberal MoveOn.org by Public Policy Polling, finds that Republicans in a number of contested districts see their poll numbers drop once respondents were told that they supported the shutdown. Below, a comparison of the margin of support between the Republican and Democratic candidates before and after that point was made (blue) and the difference between the number of respondents that approved of or disapproved of the shutdown (red).
The Democratic candidate gains an advantage after support for the shutdown is indicated in almost every race. We'll note: The candidates would almost certainly dispute the wording from PPP, which can be seen in question six (for example). But opinions of the shutdown are unequivocally negative.
How and when the shutdown is resolved is anyone's guess. But in the only really contested high-profile race in the country, the verdict of the candidate is clear: the shutdown is not a boon for Republicans. If only they could have seen that coming.