Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Virginia is for Voters

Virginia Democrats today will head to the polls to determine who will represent the party in the commonwealth's gubernatorial election against Republican, Bob McDonnell. Of the two gubernatorial races being held in 2009, Virginia's has been the more interesting one thus far, if only because of who is participating. New Jersey offers a vulnerable incumbent lagging in the polls, but open seat races, like the one in Virginia, bring the potential for dynamic, contested primary elections on both sides. Sure, McDonnell has been the de facto (or actual) GOP candidate for a while now, but the Democrats have former DNC chairman, Terry McAuliffe in the race. Not only that, but he appears to have peaked too early, dropping precipitously in the polls during the last couple of weeks. The momentum for the moment rests with state senator, Creigh Deeds, who has matched McAuliffe's fall with a nearly identical rise of late.

The big question heading into today's vote is what turnout will look like and how the variation there could affect the outcome.

Over at FiveThirtyEight, Ed Kilgore has a nice early voting counterfactual for the McAuliffe and Moran campaigns to ponder should they face the reality of calling either Deeds or each other to offer their concession and congratulations.

Update: CQ also has a nice round-up of the race this morning.

Polls close at 7pm tonight.

Recent Posts:
The Calm After the... Well, It Wasn't a Storm.

Past is Prologue? The New Jersey Governor's Race

No Move is Good Move: Texas Won't Change 2012 Primary Dates in 2009


Jack said...

This Obama supporter is hoping Terry McAuliffe wins. What everyone seems to be overlooking is that Creigh Deeds lost to Bob McDonnell for AG four years ago, albeit by a few hundred votes. Yes, the state has become somewhat bluer, but McDonnell has spent four years building up name recognition as a popular AG, while Deeds has been representing 1/40th of the state in the Virginia Senate. What would make anyone think that he has any chance to beat McDonnell? Indeed, he's further behind McDonnell, I believe, than even McAuliffe.

Moran doesn't seem to have much more of a chance either. McAuliffe might well lose even worse than the other two, as he's a bit more polarizing, but while the other two candidates have nothing special to distinguish themselves in a general election, McAuliffe does: money. Maybe he'll be able to buy the race.

Progressives (I hate that word) might do well to stop whining about how McAuliffe is "establishment" and rally behind the only candidate that has a chance to beat McDonnell.

As for what will actually happen, Deeds has a large enough lead that I think it will be enough to overcome a small staff.

Josh Putnam said...

A couple of things:
1) The low expectations for turnout are going to have some impact on how accurate polls have been in this race. How do you determine a likely voter in a race where the expected turnout is so low? 5%? Really?

That tells me an establishment candidate might do well.

...if only his unfavorables -- among Democrats! -- weren't so high.

My guess is that Deeds does have the momentum but that he will not win -- if he wins at all -- by nearly as large a margin as the most recent series of polls have indicated.

2) I don't know that I buy this "Deeds has lost to McDonnell already" argument. That was for attorney general and this one is for governor. Plus, I'd wager that he'll get a boost in the polls should he become the nominee. The true test will be to see how big that boost is, where it puts him in relation to McDonnell and if he is able to maintain that position.

This is going to be a high-profile race in the fall regardless of the Democratic candidate's identity.

...just maybe not as high-profile as if McAuliffe were the nominee.

We've got two interesting gubernatorial races this year.

Jack said...

My argument isn't as much "Deeds has lost to McDonnell" as "Deeds lost to McDonnell, and as a result McDonnell holds statewide office — and is popular — and Deeds does not, so he has a far bigger edge than he did in 2005."

Besides, if Deeds wins, McDonnell can expect to build on his most important voting bloc from 2005, those who can't handle Deeds's first name. Studies have conclusively shown that voters are far more averse to having a governor whose name they cannot pronounce or spell than an attorney general with the same issue.

Josh Putnam said...

I can buy that.

Here's the question, though:
Yes, McDonnell has won statewide and is popular, but that win was by .01% or 323 votes. Let's say McDonnell's popularity gives him, what, a 5?, 10? point boost relative to that 2005 outcome. To what extent is that offset by the growth in registration between 2005 (4.4 million) and 2008 (4.9 million)? My guess is that that growth is more Democratic than it is Republican.

But that brings us back to the turnout question. Turnout was nearly 45% in 2005 and I'd guess that it would meet or surpass that level this year given the stakes.

...or the perceived stakes.

If Deeds wins tonight, I'll look a little more closely at those numbers.

Josh Putnam said...

As of May 30, the number of registered voters sits at over 5 million (pdf).

Jack said...

After spending some time looking for a place to get live election results (even getting a few viruses which were caught by my antivirus program in the process) it appears that, unlike NJ, the live results will be on VA's board of elections site after all.