RICHMOND, Va. – The new poll from Hampton University Center for Public Policy, headed by Kelly Gill, is the best one so far among the numerous surveys done to date. It apparently is their first foray into polling on things political in Virginia.
Welcome aboard as they might say on Amtrak.
It is a very good effort. They have two top notch national polling consultants helping out on the technical stuff, one Democrat, the other Republican. In the current political climate, this seems a very wise move by the Hampton folks.
Their top line numbers – 42 for McAuliffe, 37 for Cuccinelli and 8 for the joke candidacy of Libertarian Robert Sarvis – are in line with other surveys.
BUT what they have done is a better job, in my view, of making it clear that these numbers are derivative, that is to say reflective of the forces defining this election. Accordingly, they have better shown us these forces in this particular three way dimensional election.
Their numbers show us seven KEYS to the current state of the race.
They also show that while Cuccinelli seems to have a chance in terms of common sense – there are still enough voters undecided – there is a very slim if any statistical chance.
He appears to need to get 2/3 of the undecided vote, these Virginians concentrated in a few larger metro areas as is typical in a VA GUV race.
But as will be clear shortly, without a mid-course correction of the AG’s strategy by his top strategy guy Chris LaCivita – there is not mathematical reason to think Cuccinelli can win.
Moreover, there is no reason to believe the Cuccinelli team believes it has to make such a change.
THE FIRST KEY: This campaign, as we say in the political business, is boiling down to being “all about Cuccinelli.”
Terry MAC is basically the other major party candidate on the ballot, with Sarvis the other-other guy on the ballot in case you want to vote for Governor as a (1) protest the nation’s drug policies, (2) a protest both major political parties or (3) a VA Republican who wants to protest his own party’s GUV guy.
For all the millions Terry is spending, he is really not a big factor in the race TO DATE.
That may change in the last 30 days, indeed it must change if Cuccinelli is going to win.
Let me say it again: Any number of Democrats, had they been on the ballot against Cuccinelli this year, would have roughly the same lead. Why?
THE SECOND KEY: To date, the Cuccinelli campaign has not established one useful positive issue to move voters. This is a political disaster 30 days out from an election.
THE THIRD KEY: Earth to Chris LaCivita and the Cuccinelli campaign, you disregard the Hampton poll at your peril. The numbers make the case that can’t be ignored, namely THERE IS NO WAY FOR CUCCINELLI TO WIN IF ALL HE REALLY HAS IS NEGATIVE ATTACKS ON McAULIFFE.
The “negative AD ” is Mr. LaCivita’s stock and trade.
But when your guy is seen negatively by 47 percent of likely voters, then YOU CAN NOT WIN WITH A STRAIGHT NEGATIVE CLOSING ARGUMENT against an opponent with only a 37 percent negative. It can’t be done short of a miracle.
To repeat: call it luck, call it brilliance, call it merely having a lot more money to pay for ADS, the point is the McAuliffe campaign has defined Cuccinelli, that definition having penetrated into the public view of the race.
THE FOURTH KEY: As Hampton makes clear, Cuccinelli’s failure to give back the money to Jonnie Williams has all but wrecked the GOP GUV guy’s chance of winning. WITHOUT THIS ISSUE, this is an even race, a real sprint to the finish line. As we have written previously, the failure of the AG to return the money months ago is among the worst blunders in state political history.
THE FIFTH KEY: The dislike of Cuccinelli among Democrats and key swing independents is at a record high. This will make it hard for Cuccinelli to have the type of Republican leaning Election Day electorate that he might otherwise have gotten.
THE SIXTH KEY: Cuccinelli is losing more Republicans than a GOP candidate can afford to lose meaning he has to make it up with Independents. But his high negative rating makes that hard.
THE SEVENTH KEY: At best, Cuccinelli’s campaign might be able to drive Terry’s image down to where the two major party candidates are equal. I don’t believe it, but assume this is possible. BUT that alone will not translate into a winning Cuccinelli advantage.
NET, NET: The poll shows that while Cuccinelli, on the key issues tested, isn’t perceived as different than the type of mainstream Republican Virginia voters have traditionally supported, his personal image is AS BAD AS IT GETS in politics for a GUV candidate of a major party.
The Hampton Poll thus is the first to make the following clear: Short of the type of revelation that happens once every 100 years, there is no way for Cuccinelli to have a believable mathematical chance to win a majority of the popular vote without establishing a positive “he is the guy for that stuff” image.
Just going negative can’t get you 50.
But with Sarvis getting a decent vote, then Virginia may have its first Governor elected with less than 50 percent of the vote.
THUS: Cuccinelli’s only chance it would seem is to make a mid-course correction, fight the negative, and use all his resources to make a big impression on a key issue facing the new Governor, and winning with less than 50 percent.
He doesn’t have the money to do both positive and negative. And even if he did, the positive theme is a must to have a chance of winning.
But the Cuccinelli team only has one gear… anti-Terry. His top guy LaCivita prides himself on that reputation. It isn’t the right one for Cuccinelli. Does he have the stuff to demand a switch?
Hampton University says he can’t win going that way. They are the first to make this clear, and I believe they are correct.
Paul Goldman is in no way affiliated with WTVR. His comments are his own, and do not reflect the views of WTVR or any related entity. Neither WTVR nor any of its employees or agents participated in any way with the preparation of Mr. Goldman’s comments.