|Photo courtesy of the A.P.|
A brand new survey out this morning from Quinnipiac University finds the former head of the RNC, Ed Gillespie, within reaching distance of popular Democratic Senator Mark Warner in the Virginia Senate race. Warner, who sports an impressive 52/34% favorability rating, only clocks in at 48%, while Gillespie attracts 39%.
Quinnipiac's previous Virginia survey from March found Gillespie trailing 46-31%, though that was among registered voters. The new survey was conducted among likely voters, so it isn't exactly comparable.
Looking at the crosstabs, Warner has leads among women (50-37%) and men (46-41%). Despite trailing by nine points overall, Gillespie actually attracts more Independent voters than Warner, leading among this subgroup 43-41%. Of particular note was the passage below from the official poll release:
"Actually Gillespie is tied with Warner among independents but the incumbent's lead rests on Sen. Warner doing about 15 percentage points better among Democrats than Gillespie does among Republicans."So Warner is doing a better job of consolidating his Democratic base than Gillespie is his Republican base. Warner racks up an astonishing 94% of Democratic voters. Compare that figure to Gov. Terry McAuliffe's performance with Democrats in the 2013 Governor race against Ken Cuccinelli, when McAuliffe captured 95% of the Democratic vote. That's the same percentage won by Tim Kaine and Barack Obama in their respective 2012 matches.
If you buy the Quinnipiac numbers, it appears as though Warner has maxed out his Democratic vote. But that isn't necessarily the case for Ed Gillespie. The Republican is only capturing 78% of his base. That's significantly lower than where Ken Cuccinelli wound up in 2013 (92%), or even George Allen and Mitt Romney in 2012 (93%). In other words, Gillespie likely has room to grow.
Since Quinnipiac took the time to point out the basis Warner's lead is predicated on, let's consider how the survey would have looked had Gillespie performed as well among Republicans as Warner did among Democrats. In other words, what would the poll results have been if both Warner AND Gillespie attract 94% of their bases?
What was a 48-39% lead for Mark Warner becomes a 44-43% lead.
Obviously, the campaigns don't take place in a vacuum, and the numbers will shift between now and election day. But it is interesting to see how close of a race we could have assuming two things: 1) Quinnipiac's numbers are accurate, and 2) Republicans rally almost unanimously around Gillespie.