VA-GOV: Democrats' Motivation Problem

We have another poll this morning highlighting Republicans' motivation advantage in the Virginia governor's race. Republican Bob McDonnell leads Democrat Creigh Deeds 51%-37% according ...
by | August 4, 2009
 

We have another poll this morning highlighting Republicans' motivation advantage in the Virginia governor's race. Republican Bob McDonnell leads Democrat Creigh Deeds 51%-37% according to Public Policy Polling. That's quite similar to a SurveyUSA poll last week that put McDonnell ahead 55%-40%.

The pool of likely voters in both polls showed far more people who voted for John McCain in the electorate than people who voted for Barack Obama (52%-43% McCain according to SurveyUSA and 52%-41% McCain according to PPP). Given that Obama won Virginia fairly comfortably, that is a clear sign that Republicans are more motivated to vote this fall.

If there's any good news for Deeds, it's that motivation is by far his biggest problem. He's doing a reasonably good job persuading his party's supporters (the ones who plan to show up) to vote for him. He's not losing lots of Democratic voters to McDonnell. Despite McDonnell's large lead, he could still lose if Democrats actually vote in large numbers.

To show you want I mean, I've compiled a chart below that projects what results Public Policy Polling and SurveyUSA might have arrived at with different electorates. I've kept constant the preferences of former Obama voters (79%-5% for Deeds according to PPP and 81%-14% for Deeds according to SurveyUSA), the preferences of McCain voters (89%-5% for McDonnell according to PPP and 89%-9% for McDonnell according to SurveyUSA) and the preferences of apparent amnesia sufferers who couldn't remember, wouldn't say or voted for someone else (48%-27% McDonnell according to PPP and 54%-16% McDonnell according to SurveyUSA, based on my own number crunching).

Virginia Governor

(If you have trouble viewing the chart, click on it and it will be clear.)

As you can see, if the electorate has as many McCain supporters as Obama supporters, McDonnell is very likely to win. If the electorate is the same as it was in 2008, when Obama won 53%-46%, the race is basically a toss up.

That said, even if Democrats were reasonably interested in the governor's race, it's unlikely the electorate would look like it did last year. Core Democratic constituencies were as motivated to support Obama as they've ever been. Democrats would likely be happy if 51% of the voters who participate in November are former Obama supporters.

That electorate, as my chart shows, would leave McDonnell with a narrow advantage. In other words., Deeds has a little bit of work to do persuading swing voters to support him and a lot of work to do to persuading his potential supporters to vote. McDonnell is a solid favorite at this point, though the race likely will tighten and the Republican's victory is not assured.

Josh Goodman
Josh Goodman  |  Former Staff Writer
mailbox@governing.com

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