Thursday, January 10, 2013

2013 Virginia Governor: PPP paints bleak picture for the Cooch (R). Quinnipiac? Not so bleak.

From left, Cuccinelli, Gov. McDonnell, & Lt. Gov. Bolling after their win in 2009. Oddly enough, the man on McDonnell's left has said he would not be on a ticket with the man on McDonnell's right.

Public Policy Polling released their first poll on the 2013 Virginia Governor's race yesterday, and the results weren't great for likely Republican nominee, Ken Cuccinelli. The former Attorney General only  managed to garner 41% against his probable opponent, failed 2009 Democratic candidate and Clinton-confidant, Terry McAuliffe (who managed 46% in the PPP poll). This result closely mirrors a Quinnipiac poll from November that showed McAuliffe up 41-37%.

Diving into the poll internals, the news only seems to get worse for Cuccinelli. For an example, take a look at the ideological identification of the poll respondents. Virginia voters identify as 27% Liberal, 32% Moderate, and 41% Conservative. Compare this to the exit polls for the 2009 Virginia Governor's race, which saw just 17% Liberal turnout, 42% Moderate, and 40% Conservative. Despite Liberal turnout being much lower in 2009 than the 2013 PPP finding, Cuccinelli would still trail McAuliffe by the same margin if the PPP poll were reweighted to 2009 ideological turnout. See the math in the chart below:

PPP survey weighted to 2009 VA Gov ideological I.D.

How, exactly, is it that Cuccinelli (R) still trails McAuliffe (D) 46-41%, despite reweighting the numbers to a LESS liberal ideological make-up? Because regardless of the drop-off in liberals, moderates were a much larger percentage of the 2009 electorate than what PPP found in their poll. And unfortunately for Cuccinelli, the Republican trails the Democrat among moderates by a substantial, 61-25% margin. That was NOT the case in the 2009 gubernatorial race between Gov. McDonnell (R) and Creigh Deeds (D), when the Democrat carried moderates by a much narrower 53-47% margin. That difference in the performance of Cuccinelli and McDonnell among moderates is the main reason the Republican does just as poorly whether the numbers are weighted to the PPP ideological finding, or the 2009 ideological finding. IF, somehow, the Cooch were able to get 47% of the Moderate vote (as McDonnell did in '09), HE would lead the PPP poll, 51-42%, a 14 pt reversal from the actual PPP result.

Still, the PPP poll is rough for the Virginia Republican. Even IF Cuccinelli were lucky enough to see low liberal turnout like 2009, he'd trail in the PPP poll 46-41%. But it's worth noting that while the PPP ideological I.D. finding is more liberal than the 2009 VA electorate, the 2012 electorate was much LESS conservative. Conservatives made up 41% of the respondents in the PPP poll, 40% of actual 2009 voters, but just 31% of actual 2012 voters. If PPP is right, and 2013 turnout sees low conservative turnout like 2012, Terry McAuliffe (D) has the potential to win big:

PPP survey weighted to 2012 VA Presidential ideological I.D.

McAuliffe would take a substantial 51-36% lead over Cuccinelli when reweighting to the 2012 presidential electorate. Simply put, the Republicans can not afford to allow the Democrats to replicate their 2012 turnout success in the 2013 Governor's race. Based on PPP's current numbers, they would lose to the Democrats by a much more substantial margin than Romney lost to Obama in November.

On a final note, the party I.D. findings, when compared to past VA turnout, further magnify Cuccinelli's weakness in the PPP survey. They found Virginia voters identifying as 35% Democrat, 32% Republican, and 32% Independent (D+3), a net 7 pts MORE Democratic than 2009 turnout (R+4). But even in that rosy scenario, Cuccinelli fails to gain a lead over McAuliffe; they're tied at 44-44%:

PPP survey reweighted to 2009 VA Gubernatorial party I.D.

Keep in mind that the current Virginia Governor won his 2009 race with the same party I.D. as above, 59-41%. Cuccinelli only manages a tie. And in the event 2013 turnout happens to resemble what we saw just 2 months ago in Virginia (D+7)? . . . :

PPP survey reweighted to 2012 VA Presidential party I.D.

All other things remaining the same, if the PPP poll were reweighted to 2012 turnout, McAuliffe's lead would expand from 46-41% to 48-40%, a far cry from his 26%, 2nd place finish in the '09 Democratic primary.

The bottom line is that if PPP's to be believed, Cuccinelli would be in trouble right now no matter what turnout scenarios we apply. If you accept that 2009, in terms of turnout, is the ceiling for Republicans (and floor for Democrats), and that 2012 is the ceiling for Democrats, then Cuccinelli's currently trailing by as much as 15 points, and at best, manages to tie Terry McAuliffe. If PPP is right, it's not a terribly impressive start for the man they call the "Cooch."

UPDATE: A new Quinnipiac poll contradicts the PPP poll, showing the VA Governor's race essentially tied, McAuliffe 40%, Cuccinelli 39%. But the largest divergence from PPP comes in their favorability measurements of Ken Cuccinelli (R). PPP finds him quite unpopular, with a favorable/unfavorable rating of 29/45%, while Quinnipiac finds him in relatively good standing with voters, boasting a rating of 33/25%. That's a 24 point difference between the two polling firms! In even better news for Cuccinelli, the Quinnipiac poll finds poll respondents identifying as 8% more Democratic than Republican. If the Q-poll were reweighted to the party I.D. of the last gubernatorial election in Virginia (R+4), Cuccinelli would be ahead of McAuliffe, 44-38%:

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