Thursday, November 29, 2012

2013 VA. Gov: With Warner (D) & Bolling (R) out, looks like McAuliffe (D) vs. Cuccinelli (R)

Quinnipiac released a 2013 Virginia Governor's poll on November 14th, showing tight races between the presumed Democratic nominee Terry McAuliffe and his two likely Republican opponents, Bill Bolling and Ken Cuccinelli. Though with Bolling indicating yesterday he would not seek the Republican nomination for Governor (and Mark Warner indicating the same), the race seems all but set between McAuliffe and Cuccinelli. McAuliffe was an unsuccessful candidate in the 2009 Democratic primary for Governor, and lost to Creigh Deeds (D) (50-26%), the man who eventually went on to lose to Gov. McDonnell (R) in the general election, 59-41%. Ken Cuccinelli is the state attorney general who earned the reputation among Democrats as a Republican boogey man by filing suit on behalf of his state against Obamacare. This tweet from NBC's Chuck Todd sums up insiders view of a potential McAuliffe / Cuccinelli match-up:

McAuliffe enjoys a narrow lead in the Q-poll, 11 months out from the election, at 41-37%. Both men attract roughly equal portions of their base, while Republican Cuccinelli squeaks by with a 1 point lead among Independents (34-33%). McAuliffe gets his 4 point lead, however, through the D+7 party I.D. Quinnipiac polled registered voters and found their partisan identification to be roughly the same as it was on election day 3 weeks ago (39D/32R/29I, D+7), and on election day 2008 (39D/33R/27I, D+6). That's a very different electorate from the one that turned out for the 2009 Governor's race, just 12 months after Obama won Va. by 7 points, and enjoyed a Democratic turnout advantage of 6 points. The November 2009 electorate was 33D/37R/30I, or R+4, which represents a party I.D. shift of 10 POINTS (!) in just 1 year. Below is a table of what the Q-poll top line would look like if their party ID finding were reweighted to the 2009 Virginia Governor's race:

Quinnipiac poll weighted to 2009 Virginia turnout:                                          

The race essentially flips from 41-37% for McAuliffe, to 42-38% for Cuccinelli. So it seems that in the absence of a high profile, highly-popular Virginian gubernatorial candidate like Mark Warner (who leads Cuccinelli 52-34% in the Q-poll), the race becomes a battle of partisan turnout. The question is: will likey voters in the gubernatorial race next November resemble the Q-poll finding, as well as the 2012 and 2008 electorates? Or will turnout look the way it did in 2009, when Bob McDonnell crushed Creigh Deeds by nearly 20 points? Democrats can relish the fact that 2 of the last 3 statewide elections saw large Democratic turnout, while Republicans will point to the fact that the last gubernatorial election saw a much older and whiter electorate than in presidential years.

Anything can happen in a year, but as for now, this race looks like a nail-biter. 

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