According to fivethirtyeight.com’s polling average, at this point in 2018, Democrats led Republicans in the “generic” Congressional ballot polls by about 8 points. In the end, Democrats went on to win the popular vote in those elections by 8.6 points (53.4%-44.8%) – note that the polls were highly accurate – picking up a net of 41 seats.
And what about this election? Again, according to fivethirtyeight.com’s polling average, Democrats lead the “generic” Congressional ballot by a wide margin (about 7 points), albeit a bit (a point or so) lower than at this point in 2018. If this polling is accurate – as 2018’s certainly was – what might this mean for key Virginia Congressional races?
First off, it’s worth pointing out that there’s been almost no public polling of Virginia’s Congressional races. As you can see here, we’re talking about just one poll in VA02 (by the Republican Tarrance Group, which fivethirtyeight.com rates as a B/C pollster, with an R+0.9 bias), showing a 48%-48% tie between Rep. Elaine Luria (D) and Scott Taylor (R). Other than that, there are two polls on VA05, one by Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling (a B-rated pollster by fivethirtyeight.com, with a D+0.3 bias) showing Republican Bob Good up 2 points over Democrat Cameron Webb; and a 7/30-8/4 Global Strategy Group poll (rated B/C, with a D+1.8 bias) also showing Good up 2 points over Webb. Other than that…nothing public, as far as I can see.
Second, let’s look at the political prognosticators’ ratings. According to Cook Political Report, VA05 is “Lean Republican,” while VA02 and VA07 are “Toss Up.” Other than that, no Virginia Congressional race is considered competitive. For comparison, Sabato’s Crystal Ball has VA05 as “Leans Republican” (the same as Cook), with VA02 and VA07 as “Leans Democratic” (differs from Cook). And Inside Elections has VA05 as “Likely Republican” (more pessimistic than the other two ratings), with VA02 and “Lean Democratic” (the same as Sabato) and VA07 as “Tilt Democratic” (between Cook and Sabato).
Third. let’s look at the results from 2018 for VA02, VA05 and VA07, which are the only three plausibly competitive districts in Virginia this cycle, according to basically all the political analysts.
- VA02: Luria (D) 51.05%-Taylor (R) 48.81%
- VA05: Riggleman (R) 53.18%-Cockburn (D) 46.65%
- VA07: Spanberger (D) 50.34%-Brat (R) 48.40%
Where that leaves us, assuming the national Congressional “generic” polling this cycle is as accurate – and predictive – as it was in 2018, and if it’s about 1 point lower right now than it was at the same point in 2018, the situation seems to be approximately as follows:
- VA02: Luria won by 2.24 points in 2018, and is facing the same opponent (Taylor), albeit one who isn’t an incumbent this time around. As of the June 30, 2020, Luria had a YUGE fundraising advantage over Taylor, which bodes very well for her. And Taylor continues to be dogged by the “Petitiongate” scandal, which definitely won’t help him. Also note that VA02 – which Trump narrowly won in 2016 – has been trending “blue” since Trump took office, with Ralph Northam winning it by 5 points in 2017 and Tim Kaine winning it by 10 points in 2018. So, bottom line, I’d agree with a “Tilt Democratic” or possibly “Lean Democratic” rating on this race, as long as Democrats are able to get our voters out there in huge numbers.
- VA05: Republican Denver Riggleman won this district by 6.5 points in 2018 over Democrat Leslie Cockburn in 2018, with far-right Republican Corey Stewart defeating Tim Kaine here in 2018 by a 50%-48% margin. Also, Ed Gillespie beat Ralph Northam in 2017 by 9 points (54%-45%). So…yeah, this is going to be tough. On the bright side, Democrats have an excellent nominee in Dr. Cameron Webb, and Republicans ousted their incumbent for a nutty extremist, Bob Good. Also, Webb held a massive financial advantage as of June 30. Bottom line: I’d agree with Cook and Sabato on this one as “Leans Republican,” but if Democrats turn out in droves, and if Republicans are divided at all from their bitter nominating process, it’s certainly possible that Webb could pull off a very pleasant surprise in November.
- VA07: Abigail Spanberger won this district by 1.9 points in 2018 over Republican Dave Brat, while Tim Kaine won it 52%-46% over Corey Stewart in 2018. On the other hand, Ed Gillespie beat Ralph Northam by 3 points in VA07 in 2017, and Trump beat Clinton here in 2016 by 8 points. So again, this is a tough district, but…also again, Spanberger has a *massive* financial advantage over far-right Republican Nick Freitas, which is very encouraging. Also, it’s hard to see any particular line of attack by Freitas as gaining any traction so far, with just 12 days until voting begins. Bottom line: I’d probably split the difference between Cook (“Toss Up”) and Sabato (“Leans Democratic”) on this one, putting it at “Tilt Democratic.”
As for the other eight Virginia Congressional districts, obviously the deep-“red” ones (VA06, VA09) and deep-“blue” ones (VA03, VA04, VA08, VA11) are not competitive. Nor is increasingly “blue” VA10 or, unfortunately, still-“red” VA01.
What do you think?
P.S. Oh yeah, on VA07, also check this out.
“Drama in the 7th congressional district: The Committee apparently recorded 43 extra votes for state central candidates on the date of the 7th GOP convention. Now that this is known, congressional candidates who lost that day are considering appealing the results.”
— Charles Small (@csmall23229) September 5, 2020