The Virginia governor’s race that some thought might shed light on the leanings of the 2014 electorate has turned into a rout as Democrat Terry McAuliffe leads Ken Cuccinelli By 18 points.
Things are so bad for Virginia Republicans that GOP pollster Rasmussen has McAuliffe leading Cuccinelli 50%-33%. Libertarian Robert Sarvis is third at 8%. In case you don’t trust Rasmussen polls, and you shouldn’t, PPP has a new poll of early voters that shows McAuliffe leading Cuccinelli by 18 points with early voters.
PPP found the Democrat leading 57%-39% with early voters. Libertarian Sarvis has just 3% of the votes cast by those who already voted. McAuliffe leads with Independents, 54%-37%. The Democrat is building a big lead with women early voters 60%-36%, and he is leading with white voters 55%-41%. Some Republicans will blame the government shutdown for burying Cucccinelli, and the shutdown may end up turning this contest into a blowout, but the real problem is that Virginia Republicans chose a candidate who is completely out of step with the political direction that their state is moving in.
Virginia Republicans are getting spanked by the voters in their state, because they followed the lead of the national party. They moved more to the right in order to appeal to base that has become the embodiment of the term fringe. If Cuccinelli loses, many will blame the loss on the government shutdown, but the Republican has not led in a single poll since July. McAuliffe’s lead ranged from 1-7 points all through the summer. His lead steadied into the 4-5 point range before the government shutdown. After the shutdown, McAuliffe’s lead jumped to 7-10 points. Post shutdown, McCauliffe has seen his lead explode to close to 20 points.
The lessons for Republicans are that voters who were impacted by the shutdown aren’t going to be as willing to forgive and forget as easily as the Republican Party would like, and the behavior of national Republicans is having a devastating impact on the GOP brand at all levels. Cuccinelli’s support took its biggest drop when national Republicans started to show up and offer encouragement to the candidate. It is possible that we may see a lot of incumbent Republicans run away from their own party in 2014 in an attempt to distance themselves from the severely damaged party brand.
Cuccinelli may have been heading for a loss anyway, but the behavior and “help” from national Republicans took an election that might have been close, and turned it into a potential blowout for the Democratic candidate.