Josh Goodman is a former staff writer for GOVERNING..E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Just a few weeks ago, two polls in the Democratic primary for governor of Virginia showed a jumbled mess. The three candidates were tightly bunched together and more voters were undecided than favored any of them.
Now, a new poll shows Terry McAuliffe, the former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, ahead by double digits. Has McAuliffe really surged?
It wouldn't be a big surprise if he had, as he has raised the most money, had the most active campaign and garnered the lion's share of the media attention. But, looking more closely at the new poll, there's good reason to believe his lead isn't a firm one.
So, SurveyUSA shows strong movement toward McAuliffe. However, SurveyUSA (which always provides fabulous cross tabulations on its polls) also asked the poll's respondents whether they had made up their minds or whether they could still change. Only 36% had actually made up their minds. Here were the results of the SurveyUSA poll, divided on their response to that question:
As you can see, McAuliffe dominates among people who might still change their mind. Among those who have actually decided, we still have a muddled three-way race.
That suggests McAuliffe's lead is tenuous. He's probably only ahead because voters have heard the most about him. Whether these weak McAuliffe supporters will stick with him and whether they will actually show up on election day are very much open questions.
That said, the good news for McAuliffe is that, due to his financial edge, voters are likely to keep hearing the most about him from now until the June 9 primary.
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