Updated 11:48am

Quinnipiac University released a new poll for Virginia’s Gubernatorial race and finds a tie between Ken Cuccinelli and Terry McAuliffe after Bill Bolling left the race:

Virginia State Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is viewed as having better experience while voters see Terry McAuliffe as slightly less ideological, but neither is well-known to voters who are divided on who should be the next governor, with 40 percent for Republican Cuccinelli and 38 percent for Democrat McAuliffe according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.

The decision by Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling that he would not run for governor as an independent has had no effect on the Cuccinelli-McAuliffe matchup as the current dead heat is the same as two previous surveys this year, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University poll finds.

For 37 percent of Virginia voters, the economy is the most important issue in the governor’s race, while 19 percent list education, 15 percent cite taxes and 12 percent list the state budget.

Digging into the numbers:

Head-to-Head

Rep/Dem/Ind
Cuccinelli – 83/2/37
McAuliffe – 3/86/29

Cuccinelli’s off to an early lead among independents but it’s not insurmountable.

Men/Women
Cuccinelli – 49/33
McAuliffe – 33/43

White/Black
Cuccinelli – 49/7
McAuliffe – 30/70

As we’ve seen from his recent tactics, McAuliffe is going to try to continue to drive the war on women wedge to increase his support among women, but he doesn’t have a lock yet. The focus on the slavery comment, as inane as it was, was clearly an attempt to fire up what so far is McAuliffe’s strongest voting block.

Age 18-34/35-54/55+
Cuccinelli – 33/45/40
McAuliffe – 38/38/39

McAuliffe has yet to run away with the “youth vote”, which makes Cuccinelli’s history in working with college and young Republicans a strength that can absolutely be capitalized on if done properly.

Experience and Favorability

When asked if the candidate has the right kind of experience to be governor
Cuccinelli – 44/22 (+22)
McAuliffe – 28/23 (+5)

Favorability
Cuccinelli – 30/24 (+6)
McAuliffe – 20-26 (+4)

No opinion
Cuccinelli – 44%
McAuliffe – 63%

If experience continues to be an issue (which it should be), Cuccinelli comes out in a MUCH stronger position than McAuliffe. There’s certainly room for McAuliffe to catch up given that he is as of yet unknown to a majority of the electorate but Cuccinelli has a strong early lead.

McAuliffe would do well to learn at least a few positions in the Governor’s cabinet.

Ideology

Too Conservative/About Right/Too Liberal
Cuccinelli – 29/32/5
McAuliffe – 4/29/21

No Opinion
Cuccinelli – 33
McAuliffe – 45

Each candidate has a lot of wiggle room on how they’re viewed by the electorate. McAuliffe has a slight lead when pitting “about right” versus “too ______” with +8 to Cuccinelli’s +3. That said, there is a lot of room for McAuliffe to be defined while 2/3 of the electorate has already made a call on Cuccinelli. While minds can be changed, again, McAuliffe is open to being defined.

11:48am UPDATE: But so is Cuccinelli. The following ad is currently running on Facebook and isn’t the first one out of the McAuliffe campaign to try and paint Cuccinelli with an extreme brush:

Screen Shot 2013-03-27 at 11.47.52 AM

Approval Ratings

Nothing here for McAuliffe, but among Virginia’s statewide elected officials:

Approval
Gov Bob McDonnell – 53/26 (+27)
AG Ken Cuccinelli – 45/27 (+18)
LG Bill Bolling – 37/15 (+22)
Sen. Mark Warner – 56/26 (+30)
Sen. Tim Kaine – 47/33 (+14)

Bob McDonnell’s approval rating seems to have so far survived the uproar surrounding the Transportation Plan with his approval moving up 2 points since Quinnipiac’s 2/20 survey. But if he’s eyeing a Senate run next year it sure isn’t going to be a cake walk given Mark Warner remaining the most popular statewide official in the Commonwealth.

So what does it all mean?

Nothing. It’s March. There’s plenty of time for the race to shape up, but expect a lot out of the campaigns focusing not so much on their guy but the other guy. McAuliffe has shown this more than Cuccinelli, only recently putting policy positions on his website while spending the last few months slinging every thing possible at Cuccinelli. But don’t expect Cuccinelli to sit back and take it for much longer.

Virginians are about to hear an awful lot about their candidates for Governor. And it ain’t going to be pretty.

Elsewhere

Bearing Drift: Cuccinelli and McAuliffee in a statistical tie, Bolling’s exit a non-event

JHPolitics: Poll Alert: Cuccinelli With Slight Lead In Virginia Governor’s Race

Bearing Drift: An Important Reminder – “Virginia Voters Know Little About Gov Candidates”

Half of women have no opinion of Ken Cuccinelli. 60% of blacks have no opinion. Over half of Democrats have no opinion. A third of Republicans have no opinion. As you’d expect, all of those numbers are even higher for McAuliffe.

Also worth noting, neither candidate has increased their name ID since Quinnipiac went into the field in January. All of the shots across the bow from Cuccinelli and McAuliffe have been part of the quiet, cold war where no one’s paying attention except those who already know who they’re supporting.