VA-GOV: McDonnell and Fellow Republicans Lead

Public Policy Polling's latest shows strength for Bob McDonnell and the other Republicans on the ticket in Virginia, Bill Bolling and Ken Cuccinelli: Creigh ...
by | July 7, 2009

Public Policy Polling's latest shows strength for Bob McDonnell and the other Republicans on the ticket in Virginia, Bill Bolling and Ken Cuccinelli:

Creigh Deeds' post-primary bounce in Virginia appears to have worn out after a month off the airwaves, and Bob McDonnell now holds a 49-43 lead in the contest to become the state's next Governor.

The candidates are doing about an equally good job of uniting their parties around them, but McDonnell has a 54-33 advantage among independents fueling his overall advantage.

...

In the race for Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling leads Jody Wagner 46-40, and for Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is up 45-38 on Steve Shannon.

(Hat tip: Political Wire)

It's not surprising that Deeds' bounce has faded. The down-ballot numbers are surprising though. Bolling is an incumbent, while Cuccinelli is not, but that doesn't seem to be putting Bolling in any stronger of a position than Cuccinelli.

Why are the Republicans all leading by similar margins? A big part of the reason is their similar leads about independents. McDonnell is up by 21 points among unaffiliated voters, while Bolling and Cuccinelli each lead by 18 points.

My big question with this poll is whether those advantages with independents are plausible. And, my first reaction was no.

Shannon and Cuccinelli are almost completely unknown at this point outside of Northern Virginia, where they both serve in the legislature. In a campaign that hasn't even started, it seems odd that one candidate would have such a large edge with this key group of voters. The similarly large edges among independents for all of the Republicans may indicate that PPP happened to sample an unusually conservative group of independents.

However, there is another possibility. PPP surveyed likely voters. If conservatives, including conservative independents, are more motivated to vote than Democratic-leaning independents, that could explain why Republicans have an edge with the group. In fact, PPP found signs that Democratic constituencies aren't motivated for this election:

We're detecting little interest in the race right now from black voters or young voters, both groups that were overwhelmingly supportive of Barack Obama and key to his success in the state last year. We currently project black turnout at 16% of the electorate, down from 20% last year, and voters under 30 at 8%, down from 21% last year.

I've heard some talk that Democratic voters (whether they're actual Democrats or independents who lean Democratic) have become complacent since Barack Obama's election. So far, though, the evidence has been spotty.

Republicans have had some good showings in special elections, including a couple in Virginia. But, Democrats have had impressive wins too in conservative state legislative seats in Alabama and Kentucky and in a New York congressional race. Still, it's worth watching whether Democrats will have a harder time convincing their supporters to come to the polls in the Obama era.

By the way, following up on my post from yesterday, McDonnell says that he would welcome Sarah Palin to campaign on his behalf.

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

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