by Paul Goldman
Is Ken Cuccinelli really that weak politically, is Terry McAuliffe really that strong, or is Virginia politics entering a new era in terms of statewide elections?
My sweep thesis is premised in some measure on the new era analysis, but resting even more on the relative strengths of the campaigns for Governor. If I sound like a broken record, then that’s because the song I have been singing over the summer is more popular with Virginians than Robert Thicke’s Blurred Lines. However, I will concede his video is better than mine.
Back to the politics: The polls right now are indicating either: 1) Democrats are a lot more juiced up to vote or; 2) Republicans are down in the political dumps for various reasons, too numerous to name really (which explains the GOP grassroots sour mood).
At this point, it really is pointless to point fingers at the campaign or the candidate or the strategy guy or the policy person. Whatever the reason: Cuccinelli is facing the “Perfect Storm,” but at least George Clooney was in a movie, not on the actual ship in an actual storm, just a Hollywood set. Cuccinelli is registering an all-time low (or nearly so) in the polls for a GOP candidate going into Labor Day. This is the reality. Governor McDonnell’s numbers are actually way better than Cuccinelli’s.
So, Cuccinelli’s campaign strategy guys may soon realize: if Bob McDonnell doesn’t get indicted, they will not be able to blame the Governor if the GOP loses in the biggest such defeat since 1985! My sweep thesis doesn’t predict the margin; indeed once you are inaugurated, the margin is irrelevant for policy purposes, and usually the politics for the first year or so. Nor is the thesis based on a sea change in the turnout model.
BUT: If the turnout model in a Virginia GUV election is now what the polls are predicting – a substantial statistical advantage for Democrats – then of course we are talking about 2013 marking a watershed moment in the Old, now New, Dominion.
So you ask: “Well, Paul, is 2013 such a marker?” The answer: As you know, I don’t believe Governor McDonnell should get indicted based on my understanding of the law and the evidence. I don’t buy the rat theory of criminal law. Assuming, therefore, that this is the case, then it is very possible for the Governor to NOT be a drag on the Cuccinelli campaign in the final analysis, as amazing as this might have seemed only a week ago.
By election day, McDonnell could very well have a very good image with almost all Republicans and a decent one with independents IF HE CALLS A SPECIAL SESSION and continues getting high marks for his performance in the job, as opposed to personal failings. Virginians are forgiving; we all need to be in that regard when possible. Assuming, therefore, that this is the situation, then a big relative jump in Democratic vs. Republican turnout statistics suggests something bubbling up in the Virginia electorate.
A sweep would also leave Republicans at an historic 50-year low in folks elected statewide (they would have NO ONE!). That strikes me as more than just a bad 2013 ticket or bad 2013 strategy. However, it would take a confirming election in 2017 to prove it.
Bottom line: If the polls keep showing the same relative projected electorate, and there is nothing to make the election year unusual in any basic DEM v GOP way, then the odds will grow that the 2013, in retrospect, will have been a marker for a new era. It is still the lesser of the likely cases at this point, but the polls continue to suggest the 2009 electorate, so fairly to McDonnell, is not likely to repeat. As I have written, that alone could be enough to defeat the GOP ticket this year without anything more.