Home 2019 Elections Reading the “Tea” Leaves, Part IV: How High Will This Wave Go?

Reading the “Tea” Leaves, Part IV: How High Will This Wave Go?


Wow! Talk about a total collapse; Virginia Republicans should start transferring money to local dog catcher races to try to hold onto power after next week’s election. The latest Washington Post poll shows a blue tsunami coming down on the GOP. I’ve stopped worrying if Herring will win, he should, and have started asking just how high this tidal wave will go.

All three Democratic statewide candidates are leading:


McAuliffe: 51 (47)

Cuccinelli: 39 (39)

Sarvis: 8 (10)

Lt. Governor

Northam: 52 (45)

Jackson: 39 (42)

Attorney General

Herring: 49 (45)

Obenshain: 46 (42)

A collapse in Sarvis support would produce a 53%-42% race, based on the 2nd choice of his supporters. Not only are the Democrats winning, but it’s not because Sarvis is splitting off Republican support.

Sarvis has seen his support start to drop off, but he’s still impressively high for a third-party candidate. The intervention by the libertarian Purple PAC means that he should have enough support to keep his numbers up through the election, I don’t see him collapsing back down to 2%. But unfortunately for his supporters, he’s sliding away from the 10% threshold they need for ballot access in the future.

In the DC Suburbs, McAuliffe is now at Obama levels of support and leads Cuccinelli 65% to 30%, with Sarvis at 6%. In the more Republican-leaning Northern Virginia Exurbs, McAuliffe leads 47% to 46%, and Sarvis is at 5%. In both areas, Sarvis is playing only a minor role as a spoiler; in the exurbs almost all his supporters would not vote at all if he weren’t in the race.

Central and Western Virginia is the only region where Cuccinelli is leading, 53% to 33%, Sarvis at 13%. There is a significant gap down in the Attorney General’s race. E.W. Jackson is only at 56%, while Obenshain receives a commanding 68%. If this is the result on election day, it’s actually higher than Romney’s share of the vote in Central and Western Virginia against Obama in 2008. This is one reason why Obenshain is still hanging on, but it’s lonely solace to Republican operatives trying to hold onto seats in the General Assembly. The vast majority of competitive seats are outside of this area, Obenshain’s commanding margin isn’t helping the party where it needs it the most.

McAuliffe has now opened up a dominating position in Richmond and Eastern Virginia, leading 57% to 33%, Sarvis at 9%. This extends to the other Democratic candidates, Northam leads 55% to 35%, Herring leads 54% to 40%. I’m going to hate watching the results Election Night in the Richmond suburbs given that not a single recruit was found by the Democratic Party of Virginia and our House Caucus. Failure!

And finally, in Tidewater, Democrats lead in all races again, McAuliffe 53% to 38%, Sarvis 7%; Northam 58% to 33%, and Herring 55% to 44%. The biggest challenge for Herring in closing the deal with undecided voters is finding areas with persuadable voters. There are two areas where he’s behind McAuliffe that may be difficult to change: the immediate DC suburbs and Western and Central Virginia. The failures of the rest of the GOP ticket explain the latter, the former is just a sign of the difficulties facing a lesser profile race in the most expensive media market. The Richmond area, where McAuliffe is rolling up an impressive margin, may be where Herring wins this. So hop onto 95 South for some canvassing this weekend?

With a 12-point lead, McAuliffe could hit over 50% in as many as 49 Delegate districts (underwhelming because of the GOP gerrymandering). But with Sarvis, McAuliffe will probably win with a plurality in seven or so more, without trying to take into account the regional skew in Sarvis’s support and how the candidates are performing.

My best guess, and at this point it can only be a guess, is something like this:

DC Suburbs: McAuliffe sweeps everything. I had mentioned earlier that I thought he was favored in all of the competitive seats and, because of the dynamics of this year, had as good as a 50-50 shot at winning the 40th, which still gave 48% to Obama in 2012. Hugo will still probably hold on, but our challengers in the 34th and 86th are well positioned. Dems +2

Northern Virginia Exurbs: This is going to be a hard region to predict, I’m still concerned about some of the faster growing, more diverse areas that might not turn out. McAuliffe will win all of the Obama districts. There will probably be at least one surprise upset here, the Republicans aren’t as established here with the growing populations as some of the other incumbents like Hugo and Albo elsewhere. In the 33nd, McAuliffe could be getting close to 44% of the vote, is that enough for Mary Daniels to win the crossover? I’m still saying no, although I know that she’s working hard based on the radio ads I heard this weekend while out in the district. And in the nearby 18th, there’s not a corner left without a Webert yard sign. Dems +2 (+4 Cumulative)

Central & Western Virginia: In addition to the Democratic held seats, McAuliffe wins an under 50% majority in the 12th, with Sarvis performing well among the student body. Unfortunately, we started a man down with an uncontested retirement. I’m going to give us the 12th, for a wash. Dems +0 (+4 Cumulative)

Richmond & Eastern Virginia: I don’t want to belabor the point, but I will. Five districts that were competitive in 2012, including some Tim Kaine districts. No challengers. I think McAuliffe wins all five because of Sarvis and the GOP meltdown. I could see Democrats picking up one, maybe even two, of the seats if we had recruited quality candidates. In Southside, we’ll see some strange results if Sarvis is picking up old Virgil Goode supporters and other Tea Partiers, McAuliffe may narrowly win some based on strong African-American support. It won’t matter in the local races though, except for the 14th. Dems +0 (+4 Cumulative)

Tidewater: Gerrymandering and the VRA limit the success of Democrats, even in a good year, but we should see narrow Democratic wins in the Peninsula and some Virginia Beach districts. The Party has leaked an internal poll from the 94th from earlier this month showing Farinholt down one to Yancey. McAuliffe is leading by 10%, but I’d expect a closer margin based on the statewide polling. Still, I think McAuliffe wins this seat and Farinholt could well ride the wave to Richmond, as will Mason in the 93rd. Dems +2 (+6 Cumulative)

When the dust settles, McAuliffe will bring with him a new host of Democratic delegates to Richmond. Even in races where Democrats fall short, a clear signal will have been sent about the vulnerability of Republican delegates even in their off-year elections. The Obama win in 2008, which included turning Speaker Howell’s district blue, was a major factor in getting Howell to shift on the smoking ban that had been a priority of Governor Kaine. Governor-elect McAuliffe is going to be in a very similar position next year. Unfortunately, it may not change minds on the Medicaid expansion, which remains issue number one for Virginia Democrats. But now is the time to start thinking about what else should be pushed as a key priority in the months ahead …

To be continued.


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