Sunday, November 1, 2009

State of the Race: Virginia Governor (11/1/09)

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Is anyone even paying attention to this race anymore after what's happened in the special election race in New York's 23rd congressional district? Nah, I didn't think so. However, the two polls that were released today in the Virginia gubernatorial race confirmed what was already known about the contest: Republican Bob McDonnell is heading for a decent sized victory on Tuesday night.

FHQ, in its post-mortems of the 2008 election, discussed the idea that Obama could have ceded about nine points across the board and still would have won in enough states to clear the 270 electoral vote barrier. Virginia was among the states that would have swung over to the red column had that been reality. Sure, we're talking about an off-year election with lower-than-usual turnout, but the swing from a year ago to now in Virginia has been fairly remarkable. Democrats just never got on board with Creigh Deeds and were not as enthusiastic about this election cycle in the Old Dominion as their partisans across the aisle. Would anyone else have made a difference or was McDonnell just destined to become Virginia's next governor (as the occupant of the White House has dictated for the last three plus decades -- Republican in the White House/Democratic Virginia governor and vice versa)?

We political scientists like to attempt to determine whether a campaign has mattered. It is always easiest to see at when a contest is close, but in runaway elections, campaign effects are harder to come by. Yes, they matter, but often only at the margins. We certainly saw that in this race during McDonnell's thesis fallout. Things tightened for a few weeks but there was a decided regression to the mean after that point. It wasn't unlike a kind of convention bounce. And Deeds got two bounces throughout this process: 1) the thesis and 2) his primary victory in June. Other than those two times, McDonnell was in the driver's seat in this race.

2009 Virginia Gubernatorial Race Polling
Margin of Error
YouGov/Pollimetrix [pdf]
Oct. 27-30, 2009
+/- 4.5%
742 likely voters
Oct. 28-29, 2009
+/- 4%
625 likely voters

Where does that leave us now? Again, it doesn't leave very far away from where we were a day ago. McDonnell has opened up a double digit lead not only in the most recent polls, but in FHQ's averages as well. And no, he's not looking back. The only real question for Virginia on Tuesday is how much Deeds' performance at the top of the ticket is going to affect the down-ballot races. The Senate is not up for grabs this year in Virginia, so the Democrats will maintain their slim advantage in the chamber. However, the rest of the governing apparatus in the Old Dominion is likely to be controlled by the Republican Party. And that leaves this interesting divide between Virginia at the state level and Virginia at the national level (gave Obama its 13 electoral votes a year ago and elected two Democrats to the Senate over the last two cycles).

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Recent Posts:
State of the Race: New Jersey Governor (10/31/09)

State of the Race: Virginia Governor (10/31/09)

On Overseas Military Voting and September Primaries: Epilogue/Prologue

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