Three polls, far different snapshots of Virginia governor's race

Three new polls released Wednesday found Democrat Terry McAuliffe (D) remains the front-runner in Virginia's race for governor — but each painted markedly different pictures of the state of the race.

A new poll from Roanoke College finds McAuliffe with a huge advantage, leading Republican candidate Ken Cuccinelli by 46 percent to 31 percent.

A separate poll from Quinnipiac University, however, finds Cuccinelli within 4 percentage points over McAuliffe, a closer result than most polls conducted this past month.

McAuliffe leads by 45 percent to 41 percent, Quinnipiac found. 

Cuccinelli's campaign pointed to the Quinnipiac poll as evidence that it's closing strong. The Republican's campaign attacked McAuliffe for campaigning with President Obama and ripped the president's healthcare plan.

"Watch out folks, Cuccinelli is one of the best closers in Virginia and the president has upped the ante by coming in this weekend! This has shaped up to be a big opportunity for folks to send Washington a message on ObamaCare," former Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) says in a statement released by Cuccinelli's campaign.

A third poll from the conservative Rasmussen Reports has McAuliffe ahead by 7 percentage points, down from a 17-point lead in a poll that appeared to be an outlier released last week.

Most recent polling of the race has found McAuliffe with a lead in the mid- to high single digits.

Washington Post poll released Tuesday — and conducted during much of the same period as the Roanoke College and Quinnipiac University polls — found McAuliffe up by 51 percent to 39 percent.

Quinnipiac poll's sample has many more Republicans than much other polling of the race due to a tighter voter screen: The electorate leans 2 percentage points Republican in their results, which predicts an electorate much more similar to those in 2009 and 2010 in Virginia.

The Washington Post's poll gives Democrats an 8-percentage-point edge in the sample. Those numbers are closer to most other polling of the race that finds Democrats more excited about this election — and Republicans less so — than when Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) won his term in office four years ago.

McAuliffe's campaign touted the polls as a sign that he retains the edge in the race heading into Tuesday's election.

"Mainstream Virginians continue to side with Terry's common-sense policies to grow the economy and his commitment to working in a bipartisan way to create jobs in the Commonwealth over Ken Cuccinelli's extreme Tea Party agenda," said McAuliffe spokeswoman Rachel Thomas.

"The last days of this election will be about making sure those who are focused on issues like transportation, education and diversifying the economy vote on Nov. 5 and don't let their voices get drowned out by the extreme Tea Party fringe focused on ideological social issues."

The Quinnipiac poll of 1,182 likely voters was conducted from Oct. 22-28 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 percentage points.

Roanoke's poll of 838 likely voters was conducted from Oct. 21-27 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points. Rasmussen's poll of 1,000 likely voters was conducted from Oct. 28-29 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.