Wednesday, August 19, 2009

State of the Race: Virginia Governor (8/19/09)

As was the case with the New Jersey race for governor, FHQ has fallen behind in Virginia as well. Let's see what we missed (and what impact it has had):

Virginia Gubernatorial Polls (July 31-Aug. 18)
Washington Post
Aug. 11-14, 2009
Aug. 5-9, 2009
Daily Kos/Research 2000
Aug. 3-5, 2009
Public Policy Polling [pdf]
Aug. 4, 2009

FHQ had put on its Missouri cap at the end of July with the release of the Survey USA poll showing Republican Bob McDonnell cresting above the 50% mark and Creigh Deeds double digits behind. Well, in the time since that poll -- time FHQ was otherwise indisposed -- our "Show Me" attitude has turned a 180 and arrived at "Oh, I see." All four polls since have shown McDonnell around 50% and Deeds further back in the upper 30s to lower 40s range.

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Together, these polls, in addition to the earlier ones FHQ is considering in its graduated weighted averages of this race, put McDonnell ahead by right at ten points at the moment. And while the gap in the New Jersey race might be ever so slightly contracting, the race in the Old Dominion is headed in the other direction entirely. If you're a Democrat from Virginia or not, you have to be wondering where the Bush administration's loyalty rating of Bob McDonnell is (or at least a Virginia version of what may be a game changer in New Jersey*).

I read the word balance used in connection with this race recently (I'll have to track down the link.) and it is being used in a way I don't know that I've ever encountered. The idea proposed was that Virginians might be opting for McDonnell to balance out the recent Democratic shift in the state at the national level. Typically, we talk of balance in terms of ticket balancing; choosing an executive (on either the federal or state level) from one party and a legislative representative from the other as a means putting a check on the power of government. But this is balancing based not on an interbranch basis but in terms of levels within the federalist system. Nationally, then, Virginia has shifted toward the left; electing a pair of Democratic senators since 2006 and Barack Obama as president in 2008. In a state where Republicans control the House and Democrats control the Senate by the narrowest of margins, Virginians could opt to send McDonnell into office with a newly GOP-controlled Senate, pitting the GOP state government against the Democratic folks sent by the state to act in the federal government. This is a new idea to me. One I'll have to look at a bit more closely (or at least search for some research within the political science literature). Certainly, this is an altogether different type of sophisticated voting.

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The trendline at least is more interesting to look at than the New Jersey version. Instead of a rather static picture, the Virginia race offers a distinct trend in McDonnell's direction across the polls conducted since the Washington Post's primary endorsement of Creigh Deeds. Deeds' dilemma is trying to figure out a way to reverse the current trajectory of the race. With Labor Day on the horizon, it is getting down to crunch time.

*It remains to be seen whether the Bush/Christie link will inflict any sustained damage on the Christie campaign, but it is out there as an issue now. There will need to be more polls conducted to show whether that revelation is having any real long term influence on the race. The "Show Me" attitude is now shifting northward to the Garden state.

NOTE: For once, it is nice to have said that something is coming tomorrow and be able to put it out early. Too often, I end up saying something is coming tomorrow only to have it come out the day after that.

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