Monday, April 13, 2009

VA-Gov: Dogfight Benefiting McDonnell

Here is a great article on the Democrat nomination battle by my good friend Jim Ellis.

"A new Research 2000 poll of 600 likely Virginia voters reveals that the pre-election set-up may result in a considerable advantage for Republican nominee Bob McDonnell. The survey, conducted over the April 6-8 period, reveals a tightly bunched group of Democratic candidates all with relatively poor favorability ratings, against an unopposed Republican who has the luxury of staying above the fray for the next several months.

Using an over-sampling of Democrats (400) to determine answers to questions involving the candidates of that particular party, former Alexandria Delegate Brian Moran, brother of US Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA-8), posts a small but significant lead. According to the sample, Moran would capture 24% of the vote; former Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe who just reported raising $4.2 million to date – far ahead of any other candidate -- is second with 19%; and state Senator Creigh Deeds, who lost the 2005 statewide Attorney General’s race to McDonnell by just 323 votes, records 16%.

The Democrats have a real fear that the lack of a consensus nominee will cause the eventual winner to enter the general election in a badly bloodied condition. The fact that the primary is early in the cycle -- scheduled for June 9th -- might ease the situation somewhat but, a hard-fought, nasty primary battle will undoubtedly cause the party significant problems.

The three candidates’ current favorability ratings give credence to the argument that the eventual Democratic primary winner will own an upside down popularity score. According to the R-2000 poll, Moran is viewed favorably by 36% of those sampled versus 33% who have a negative image of him. McAuliffe is in even worse shape. He is already upside down with a 35:36% ratio. Even Deeds, who has tried to stay away from mixing it up with his other two opponents, only registers a 34:30% rating. By contrast, the same sample ranks Democratic President Barack Obama highly. Fifty-eight percent of the respondents have a favorable impression of Obama, as compared to 37% who rate him unfavorably. The fact that the trio of gubernatorial candidates have such anemic approval scores at this point in the campaign suggests impressions of them will become even more negative once the race intensifies.

By contrast, McDonnell scores a much better 48:31% favorability ratio. In the general election ballot test questions, the former Republican Attorney General leads all three Democratic contenders. The numbers are even more positive for McDonnell when discovering that the sample included 39% of people who consider themselves Democrats versus 32% who self-identify as Republicans. This is a bit lower than the at-large Old Dominion voting populace, meaning the numbers might be slightly better for McDonnell than the survey suggests.

Against Moran, McDonnell leads 37-36%. He opens up a seven point lead versus both McAuliffe, 40-33%, and his former general election foe Deeds, 38-31%.

While every pairing predicts a close race in a state that has trended Democratic since the turn of this century, the McDonnell camp has to be very pleased with these early results. Having a strong base upon which to build, and a set-up within the Democratic field that should play to their advantage, the Republicans have a legitimate shot at re-claiming the Virginia state house. The Commonwealth’s Governor, one of the stronger chief executive positions in the country, is also a pivotal post when overlaying the GOP 2011 national redistricting strategy."

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