Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Introducing Governor-Elect...Terry McAuliffe?? Ken Cuccinelli's No Good, Awful Week

After a brief surge in his poll numbers this Spring, Ken Cuccinelli is behind Terry McAuliffe in the Virginia Governor's race, and by an increasing margin. The billboard pictured above is featured along I-95 in Richmond, and attempts to lump Cuccinelli in with Gov. McDonnell's "gift-gate" scandal.

2013 Virginia Republican Gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli just had a terrible week last week.

Labor day has come and past, which means the majority of Virginia voters are just tuning into a race that until now had been largely ignored by everyone but reporters and political junkies. And there's little doubt that the Cuccinellli camp would rather them stay tuned out a bit longer, at least according to three new polls.

On top of the likely harmful side-effects of Republican Governor Bob McDonnell's growing scandal, Democrat Terry McAuliffe has apparently done a good job of painting Attorney General Cuccinelli (R) as an archaic social conservative who is too ideologically driven and extreme for Virginia's increasingly blue electorate. He's done so by calling attention to Cuccinelli's push for a ban on oral sex and sodomy, as well as his staunch opposition to abortion.

Cuccinelli, for his part, has unleashed a barrage of attacks on McAuliffe's perceived weak point - his propensity for honesty and truthfulness. Whether it be his involvement in Greentech, a company he co-founded that is now under federal investigation, or the failure of a second energy company with McAuliffe backing to bring jobs to Virginia, Cuccinelli has relentlessly gone after his Democratic opponent in a style familiar to Obama's attacks on Mitt Romney's experience at Bain Capital in the 2012 Presidential election.

But the verdict is in on the first half of the long 2013 Gubernatorial slug-fest in Virginia, and the polls have called the first part of the battle for Terry McAuliffe. Not only that, but the three most recent Virginia surveys suggest the race is tilting decidedly in McAuliffe's favor:

The above numbers represent Cuccinelli's worst showing of the race in any PPP or Quinnipiac survey since the start of the year. And though this is Emerson College's first outing in Virginia, they paint the bleakest picture of all for the Republican.

So where exactly is Cuccinelli weak? Pretty much everywhere, according to the cross tabs. The table below notes the performance of McAuliffe and Cuccinelli among gender, racial/ethnic groups, and political party:

While Cuccinelli averages a 44-40% lead among white voters (who will make up the largest slice of the 2013 Gubernatorial electorate by far), that fails in comparison to Mitt Romney AND George Allen's performance among whites in 2012, both of whom lost.

It also fails horribly in comparison to Republican Governor Bob McDonnell's performance 4 years ago, where he captured a staggering 67% of white voters, to Democrat Creigh Deed's 32%.

In fact, if Cuccinelli were to actually win white voters on election day 2013 by just four points, it would be the Republicans worst performance with whites in every Virginia election for President, Senate, or Governor since 1992, with the sole exception of the 2008 Senate race between Mark Warner and Jim Gilmore. See the chart below:

Red font indicates Republicans lost that race.

But Cucinelli's weaknesses among traditionally GOP-leaning groups isn't limited to just white voters.

The male vote also seems soft on Ken, to the point in which they actually prefer Terry McAuliffe by an average of four points (see 2nd chart from the top).

Male voters gave a slight majority of their vote to Mitt Romney and George Allen in the 2012 election, but remember, again, both lost by fair margins. The fact that Cuccinelli averages a 44-40% DEFICIT with this group does not bode well for his chances of a victory in November. In fact, it would most likely be indicative of a big loss, if past election results among Virginia males is any indicator:

Red font indicates Republicans lost that race.

Consider the fact that John McCain also lost this traditional Republican voting bloc by four points in 2008. He went on to lose Virginia overall 53-46%.

Finally, if you needed any other indication of the trouble Cuccinelli is in, consider his average share of the Republican vote in the last three Virginia Governor surveys. As the 2nd chart from the top notes, the Cooch is picking up an average of 81% of Republican voters, while ceding 8% to McAuliffe. With the exception of Mark Warner's landslide Senate win in 2008, 81% is a historically low number for a Republican candidate in a Presidential, Governor, or Senate race in Virginia (see below):

Red font indicates Republicans lost that race.

For his part, Terry McAuliffe is also under-performing with African American voters (no Democrat has captured less than 85% of the black vote in Virginia since 2000, and McAuliffe currently averages just 73% with this group), and with Democrats (no Democrat has captured less than 91% of Democratic voters since 1997, and McAuliffe currently averages just 85%).

Though fortunately for Terry, he's leading anyway.

McAuliffe is also slightly over-performing, historically speaking, with women voters and Independents.

Not only is the Republican campaign for Virginia Governor being dealt the worst topline polling numbers of the contest to date, they're also faced with the undeniable fact that Cuccinelli has been steadily losing steam since the start of the summer.

Consider the two tables below of Ken Cuccinelli's performance amongst demographic and partisan groups against Terry McAuliffe throughout the year, as well as his and McAuliffe's favorable/unfavorable ratings:

Obtained from Real Clear Politics and Huffington Post Pollster

Prior to July, Cuccinelli's struggles with Republican-leaning groups weren't so obvious. He frequently led among men and whites, often times by double digits. He also enjoyed positive favorability ratings, with the exception of PPP.

In fact, for a brief period in the Spring, most pollsters were in agreement that Cuccinelli was in the lead (including the Washington Post and NBC/Marist).

But that was then and this is now: Cuccinelli has trailed McAuliffe in 8 of the last 10 surveys. What's worse, the two surveys showing the Cooch with a lead are Roanoake College (an unestablished firm that has gone against the grain of most pollsters on the race) and Wenzel Strategies (a Republican polling firm).

The good news for Cuccinelli out of this August's polling is pretty limited. But for starters, it's important to remember that we've only just entered September, and Virginians are only just beginning to pay attention to the the generally low-turnout, off-year Governor's race. That means Cuccinelli has time to shift the narrative.

The only other bit of good news depends on Cuccinelli getting lucky with a sympathetic Gubernatorial electorate. Perhaps due to the once-popular Republican Governor's deepening scandal, the most recent PPP, Quinnipiac, and Emerson College Polls are not finding an electorate as white or as Republican as the last TWO off-year elections in Virginia, 2009 and 2006.

Consider the chart below of demographics and partisan breakdowns in every Virginia election for Senate, President, or Governor since 1992:

In the last two non-presidential year elections (2009 and 2006), white voters made up 78% of the electorate, while African Americans made up 16%.

PPP, Quinnipiac, and Emerson College, however, found electorates comprised of 74%, 72%, and 72% white in their pre-Labor Daypolls.

Likewise, both previous non-presidential Virginia elections featured a partisan make-up that saw Republican turnout exceed Democratic turnout, whereas the pre-Labor Day gubernatorial polls all saw Democrats outnumbering Republicans.

Who knows how the November 2013 electorate will shape up? Historically, it's been a less minority, less Democratic, and older electorate than the one that shows up in Presidential contests. But precedents are made to be broken.

The chart below reweights the Emerson College, PPP, and Quinnipiac survey results to two very different turnout scenarios: the 2009 Governor's electorate (which is more helpful to the Republican candidate), and the 2012 Presidential electorate (which is more helpful to the Democratic candidate):

As you can see, there is only ONE scenario of TWELVE in which Ken Cuccinelli would come out on top, assuming the validity of the poll numbers used in the table.

So maybe hoping for an ideal turnout scenario isn't something the Cooch should expend much energy on. He'd still lose with his current polling numbers no matter what.

No, perhaps the best thing for the Republicans is to hope the start of the general election campaign causes Virginia voters to forget what they've seen and heard up 'til now.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.