NEWPORT NEWS, Va. – With the candidates and voters poised for the first presidential debate tonight, Democrat Hillary Clinton leads Republican Donald Trump in Virginia, according to a new survey of likely voters by the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University. But Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson is winning support, especially among Millennial voters.
In a head-to-head contest, voters prefer Clinton, 48-38 percent. But among all five candidates who will be on the Nov. 8 ballot, the tally is Clinton 39, Trump 33 and Johnson 15. Green Party nominee Jill Stein and independent Evan McMullin each take 3 percent. The margin of error is +
In the waning days of the Virginia’s gubernatorial campaigns Democrats felt victory slip-sliding away. Some tried to keep their enthusiasm but each poll was like a dagger in their heart. Pundits were already beginning to do postmortems as the Deeds Wagner Shannon ticket sank further with each poll.
The State Democratic ticket never developed a clear message. Deeds was a weak candidate who relied on his campaign staff to formulate a message that never materialized. It was a poorly executed campaign. The negative ads and attacks on McDonnell’s thesis went no where. Deeds inability to articulate his transportation plan and finding himself confused by press questioning on tax increases was played and replayed in McDonnell campaign ads.
The Democratic candidate for attorney general, Steve Shannon was MIA most of the time. When Shannon poked his head up all you heard was his role in the Amber Alert system. That was fine but what do you plan to do as attorney general besides keeping children safe?
The Republican ticket ran a flawless focused issue based campaign. All you had to do was catch the tone of the daily press releases. Bob McDonnell’s long complicated though questionable plans hammered at jobs, the economy, education and transportation. Whether the plans were plausible or not, the voter saw something they could latch onto that at least “seemed” like a plan. Most of Deeds press releases were spent on picking apart McDonnell’s plans while not clearly articulating his own.
The Republican candidate for attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli is as right-wing as you can get. The voters heard from him. As a matter-of-fact he never stopped talking and could spin a yarn better than any candidate running in any office. Even Bob McDonnell and Lt. Governor Bill Bolling stood behind him when he spoke at Roanoke Regional Airport snickering to each other as Cuccinelli used his “McBollincelli” broom mimicking a “clean sweep” by the Republican ticket. The crowd was delighted. Cuccinelli was underestimated. (See the video clip of Cuccinelli at 2009 VCOG annual conference below.)
Listening to the pundits they seemed to think that either Terry McAuliffe or Delegate Brian Moran would have been the better choice in the June primary. McAuliffe would have had no problem financing his campaign but would have had a hard time overcoming his “carpetbagger” image though McAuliffe lives in Virginia. T-Macs message was consistent during the primary – jobs, jobs, jobs. I would have liked to have seen that race. T-Mac is a pistol. (See the Blacksburg primary debate below – do you think T-Mac or BM could have done better?)
Deeds television ads were insulting when depicting rural residents as country bumpkins. I assume these ads were aired only in SWVA. McDonnell’s television ads were issue focused for the most part.
Local Down Ticket Races
Councilwoman Gwen Mason got trounced in her bid for the House of Delegates 17th district. There is no good way to spin it. She even lost Roanoke City by 10 points. Mason reached for the center but she too had not articulated issues as part of her campaign strategy. Her negative ad regarding the Republican victor, Bill Cleaveland didn’t work and even may have hurt her.
Mason may have also soured voters who saw her stab her colleague Council member Dave Trinkle with a vote against his pet amphitheater project. Mason had previously been in lockstep with Trinkle on the amphitheater when they ran as an independent ticket against the Democratic ticket in 2006. Trinkle also stepped aside to avoid a primary between he and Mason for the Democratic nomination in the 17th. I expect Trinkle would have faced the same fate as Mason in any case. The consensus is that Mason will now be vulnerable in the 2010 Council elections. Remember she didn’t even carry Roanoke City.
A surprising margin for the House of Delegates 11th district where incumbent Democrat Onzlee Ware was challenged by unknown unconventional under-funded Republican Troy Bird. Bird received almost 40% of the vote. In contrast independent “Mac” McCadden received 37% of the vote in 2007. The district represents a very small portion of Roanoke County where Bird received 67% of the vote compared to 45% for McCadden in 2007. In the City McCadden and Bird’s percentage was almost dead even at 35%. Either being a Republican candidate or Ware’s questionable but now cleared campaign finance scrutiny put doubt in voter’s minds.
Also vulnerable was the Democratic incumbent Commissioner of Revenue Sherman Holland with the widely publicized 2005 audit by the City’s municipal auditor dogging him. Douglas Walker Holland’s Republican opponent campaigned on transparency and came very close to overtaking Holland.
Republican Sheriff Octavia Johnson held on to the office by slightly over 100 votes. Democrat Frank Garrett blamed independent candidate Brian Keenum who took 15% of the vote for his loss. We’ll never know how that race would have turned out if Keenum had not run. Johnson had several well-publicized missteps during her first term in office. The firing range incident and withholding mug shots that she was forced to release through a challenge supported by the Freedom of Information Act.
The 8th district race between incumbent Republican Majority Leader Morgan Griffith and his Democratic challenger Carter Turner again showed the strength of Griffith’s supporters in the heavily Republican district. The best run Democratic campaign in the world would be hard-pressed to make a dent in his majority.
Not only one reason for the Republican sweep in Virginia
The Republican base was energized by what they perceived as big government in Washington. That was clearly vocalized at rallies and town hall meetings. On the other hand Democrats unhappy with the lack of movement on President Obama’s promises stayed home. Independents who also saw nothing getting better for them were swayed easily into giving someone else the nod. The African-American voters did not show up in numbers as they did for Obama. Last but not least the Democratic ticket was weak – you could see it in the small turnout of support when they came to Roanoke.
Virginia’s Republican ticket has a tall order. If they fail to produce the progress that voters expect they too could face voter retribution in the next election.
Look for Roanoke City Council candidate announcements soon and maybe even an early challenger announcement in the 11th district.