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VA-Gov: McAuliffe Posts Big Primary Lead in New SUSA Poll, But McDonnell Leads All Comers

by: James L.

Tue Apr 28, 2009 at 9:06 PM EDT

SurveyUSA (4/25-27, likely voters):

Terry McAuliffe (D): 38
Brian Moran (D): 22
Creigh Deeds (D): 22
Other/Undecided: 18
(MoE: ±4.9%)

This is SUSA's first poll of the Virginia Democratic gubernatorial primary, and also the first one to show ex-DNC Chair Terry McAuliffe with a significant lead. It appears that his fundraising prowess may be reaping some early dividends. While Moran is polling best in his vote-rich home turf (northeast VA) at 47%, he's virtually a non-factor throughout the rest of the state, especially in southeast and central Virginia, where McAuliffe is performing strongly.

In the general election, however, Republican AG Bob McDonnell is leading all three Democrats:

Creigh Deeds (D): 39
Bob McDonnell (R): 44

Terry McAuliffe (D): 39
Bob McDonnell (R): 46

Brian Moran (D): 34
Bob McDonnell (R): 46
(MoE: ±2.7%)

This is not quite as fugly as the 10-to-15 point leads that McDonnell was amassing in a recent Rasmussen poll, but they still indicate that the Democratic nominee will have to hit the ground running as soon as the primary ends. Team Blue may take some small comfort in the fact that Republican Jerry Kilgore (himself a former AG) was leading Tim Kaine through almost every public poll until October 2005, but our field this time has an arguably bigger name recognition hole to climb out of this time around.

James L. :: VA-Gov: McAuliffe Posts Big Primary Lead in New SUSA Poll, But McDonnell Leads All Comers
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Deeds is the only one who can it

Call no man happy until he is dead-Aeschylus

From the crosstabs
It looks like the eventual nominee has a lot of potential in Northern Virginia - each of the 3 Dems is only carrying 42-46 in "northeast virginia", and Obama got 55-60% in the northeastern counties.  

I was rooting for Moran, but his recet ethical issues pushed me towards Deeds.  McAuliffe better not win the primary dammit.

60% of Virginia voters have a college degree?  That strikes me as very high.

There's some question as to the validity of this poll
My concern is the fact that their regional breakdown for the general is so skewed towards SWVA -- equal to NoVa, which is just ridiculous.

Last year's SUSA VA poll vs. this one
This poll (11/4/08 poll)
Dem - 37% (38)
Rep - 33% (36)
Ind - 28% (24)

White - 76% (72)
Black - 17% (18)

Shenandoah - 27% (24)
Northeast - 26% (26)
Southeast - 19% (22)
Central - 27% (27)

Sample sounds reasonable by most measures.

Big difference in turnout
3.7 million voters last year, compared to 2 million in 2005. It's not useful to compare presidential polling with gubernatorial polling with such a disparity.

Granted, they may be counting the western NoVa exurbs as "Shenandoah" for all I know.

[ Parent ]
PPP Poll
This poll is much different from the last edition of Public Policy Polling's poll of the Virginia Democratic Gubernatorial Primary.  That poll had the Undecideds at 46% and had Moran with a slight lead followed by McAuliffe and then Deeds.  Does Anyone have any thoughts as to why the two polls are so different?  

mdouglas the polls are different because...
...Virginia gubernatorial primaries are EXTREMELY difficult to poll, and it's virtually impossible these days to correctly predict who makes up the Democratic primary electorate or, this far before November, the general election electorate.

The pollsters are using similar but not-identical breakdowns based on race and party ID, the two biggest indicators of voting behavior.

Predicting a primary electorate always is hard in any state, but it's especially hard in Virginia today, for 2 peculiar reasons.

First, this is an odd-year election, which few states have for any of the highest-profile offices.  That depresses turnout compared to most states that have their gubernatorial primaries together with Senate or House primaries; the more on the ballot, the more voter interest there is.  And lower turnout makes it more difficult to predict the breakdown of the turnout.  Further, no one does exit polls for these odd-year elections, for the primaries or the general, because the news orgs and others don't consider it sensible economically to do so.  That makes it even harder to guess the turnout breakdown, since there's no scientific data to use as a frame of reference.

Second, Virginia has changed dramatically this decade, making for bigger flucutations than is normal in a state over just a few years' time.  There were decidedly more Repubs than Dems voting in the 2004 Presidential election, but decidedly more dems than Repubs in 2008...and the changes were BIG.  The racial breakdown also varies widely, with the black vote ranging from 16% to 21% per exit polls for the last few even-year elections; the non-black minority vote ranging from 6% to 10%, and the white vote ranging from 70% to 78%.  And the change isn't linear because people of color are less reliable voters than whites, so that we (I'm Indian-American, thus "we") don't show as well in non-Presidential years.

I'm very concerned that we have to beat McDonnell, and I parse these polls as much as I can to try to figure out who is our most electable choice for November, but even knowing some of the ins and outs of polling as I do it's hard to figure out what to make of things when polling results are so inconsistent over a short time.

43, male, Indian-American, Democrat, VA-10

[ Parent ]
Kaine's opponent in 2005 was
Jerry Kilgore.

I guess I got him mixed up with his evil twin.

[ Parent ]
Re: Kilgore
I don't think the Dems will be that lucky again. McDonnell sounds like he's capable of running a competent campaign, disdain for NOVA aside.

James L., regarding name recognition, this helps us......
Lower name rec now compared to the same point in 2005 actually helps us b/c there really is nowhere to go but up.  Poll respondents won't say they support a candidate whose name they don't recognize or who they just don't know anything about, thus artificially depressing that candidate's support.

Very quickly after the June 9 primary the polling will shift to show McDonnell's lead in all credible polls down to the low-to-mid-single digits.  The Democratic nominee likely will consistently poll over 40 by July.  And then it's a race to the finish line.

Make no mistake, McDonnell has an early edge, and using Stu Rothenberg's finely-tuned rating categories I'd call it "toss-up/lean Rep" rather than "pure toss-up."  We'll have a lot of work to do.  But it's very winnable once our nominee is clear, if he runs a competent combined messaging, media, and ground campaign.

43, male, Indian-American, Democrat, VA-10

VA State House and Senate?
Have any experts on VA poltiics done an analysis of the State House and Senate landscape?  We narrowly took the State Senate in 2007 and the repubs have only a small majority left in the State House.  I wonder how those races will shake out.

State Senate is done
It is not on the ballot again until 2011. The state House, however, is on the ballot this year.

I doubt we'll get the six, maybe 3 or so.

26, Male, Democrat, TX-26

[ Parent ]
So which State Senate will have the say in redistricting?  This one of the one sworn after the 2011 elections?

[ Parent ]
New Dominion Project has a good rundown of the House of Delegates races this year

It will be very tough to pick up the 6 seats we need and not lose any Democrats. The past three cycles, Democrats have only made a net pickup of 3-4 seats each.

[ Parent ]

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