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Virginia Republican Gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli is behind Democrat, Terry McAuliffe. If the election were held today, he would likely lose judging by current polls. But could a more accurate turnout model put him within striking distance of snatching victory from the jaws of defeat?
Republicans should reject hocus pocus questioning of polling as many in the Romney camp did in 2012. Many republicans didn’t believe the writing on the wall even when the electoral math was pretty clear.
However, while Terry McAuliffe remains the strong favorite to win this election, there are two major differences in the polling data not seen in the national polling data of 2012. First, the libertarian third party candidate is still pulling strong support from “both candidates” but mostly from fiscally-leaning but socially liberal Republicans. Second, while national election polling data more accurately takes into account turnout trends, local election polling data lends itself to polling of general adults, voters and even likely voters – resulting in flawed polls.
According to the most recent Old Dominion Poll, McAuliffe leads Cuccinelli by 7 points while Sarvis (the libertarian) pulls in 7 points himself. Meanwhile, the most recent Quinnipiac poll has McAuliffe up 7 over Cuccinelli, while Sarvis pulls in 10 points. And again, NBC has McAuliffe at +8 with Sarvis pulling in 9 points.
Now, most of these polls are of likely voters and I won’t spin that. That type of sampling lends itself to credibility. But I do want to point out that “likely voters” is extremely pliable and can be flawed.
In contrast, a poll focusing on “likely electorate” focuses more on history of voter turnout and GOTV efforts. Likely voters is an amalgamation of questions used by pollsters to attempt to identify who is actually planning on going to the polls.
In terms of turnout, consider the fact that while D’s may dread a Cuccinelli win, they aren’t thrilled by a McAuliffe victory. The same can’t necessarily be said for the Republican candidate. While many high profile Republican politicians in liberal areas of the state have come out against Cuccinelli for his staunch conservatism, it doesn’t necessarily reflect the views of the Republican electorate that may not have political points to score in siding with the winner. Cuccinelli’s base support is firm, while McAuliffe’s is soft, they just have nowhere else to go. Politico’s story from yesterday questioned the numbers that black Virginians would turn out for McAuliffe in. McAuliffe is no Obama. Soft support from the bedrock constituencies of Obama could result in a very weak showing for McAuliffe.
It should also be noted that Virginia has always had better turnout for the party out of the white house for over forty years in gubernatorial elections.
Finally, the third party candidate will lose support. The only question is how much support does he will lose and where does it go?
Sarvis ’s credibility as a libertarian is shaky at best. He doesn’t support lower taxes. He supports expanding the Medicaid program and shockingly, he seems to lend tacit support to monitoring commuter miles driven through GPS in order to more efficiently tax Virginia drivers. Combine this with his far-left view on social issues and one may wonder whether he is actually a spoiler for McAuliffe and not Cuccinelli, as McAuliffe would spin it. But in my estimation, Virginians don’t truly understand Sarvis’s position on government involvement in our lives while everyone is aware of the Attorney General’s conservative social viewpoints. This is why Sarvis is sucking up Republican support. As McAuliffe campaigns to take away guns, can anyone really say that he is in any way a pro-liberty candidate? Maybe supporters of homosexual marriage would agree, otherwise libertarians go to the Republican.
And if history tells us anything, third parties tend to fall by the wayside in the end. The third party candidate in 2012 running on the Constitution party ticket who is a native Virginian, was barely a blip on the screen when the votes were tallied. Look for Sarvis’s support to bleed into Cuccinelli’s column.
But turnout will be key to this election and the likely electorate doesn’t reflect as badly on the Attorney General as a sampling of “likely voters” does.
In conclusion, the headwinds are going against our Attorney General, but he is not out of this race. Overwhelming conservative support on election day, expected defections from the libertarian ticket and low turnout for McAuliffe would spell doom for McAuliffe and would allow Virginia to be led by the most pro-liberty and pro-growth candidate in generations.