Campaign Spot

Polls Show Virginia GOP Within Distance Of Sweeping Four Targeted House Seats

In 1994, a year after George Allen led a historic landslide Republican victory in the Old Dominion, Virginia was, for the most part, left out of the national limelight in the even more historic national Republican wave that won the House of Representatives and U.S. Senate for the first time in more than 40years. Oliver North lost a hotly contested Senate race to Chuck Robb and the GOP picked up only one House seat (the 11th, Tom Davis) while Republicans were winning in all corners of America. Was reason given by pundits at the time was that Virginians had gotten the protest out of their system in 1993. This year, following last year's more-impressive-than-1993 Bob McDonnell-led-landslide, Republican Party of Virginia Chairman Pat Mullins has been fond of saying that to take back the House, the GOP needs to gain 40 seats; 10 percent of that is here in Virginia. Now, as Jim Geraghty of National Review's Campaign Spot blog writes today, polling information shows those victories may be within reach: Three Republican challengers in those four targeted districts are leading their Democrat incumbent rivals, with a fourth closing fast. Here's the breakdown:

» In the 2nd Congressional District, Republican Scott Rigell leads Democrat Glenn Nye, 48.6 to 34.5 percent.

» In the 5th District, Republican Robert Hurt leads Democrat Tom Perriello, 51.1 to 34.7 percent.

» In the 11th District, Republican Keith Fimian leads Democrat Gerry Connolly, 42.2 percent to 36.7 percent.

» In the 9th District, Republican challenger Morgan Griffith is down to Democrat Rick Boucher only 42.6 to 39.7 percent. However, one poll had Boucher up by 20 points about a month back, then by only 8 points a couple of weeks ago. The recent fallout over Mr. Boucher buying a brand new Ford with campaign funds while Virginians in the Southwest part of the state are suffering particularly hard during this recession could easily factor into a quickly narrowing gap.

The rest of the respondents in each poll were undecided. Tellingly, though, the poll, conducted by ccAdvdertising, does not include independents or third parties. Although not a top tier polling outfit, the snapshot does provide a glimpse of what directions the campaigns are going and who has momentum.

Not all landslides are the same and electorates can swing back from whence they came in a very short time. But this year, Virginia Democrats have much going against them, much more so than in 1994. Many of the circumstances that drove people to the polls and to the GOP in Virginia and in blue New Jersey (and deep blue Massachusetts in January) last year are still around: Primarily, as in the case of Congressman Boucher, this:

This love is going to last, but that might not be a good thing.

And this:

He's doing fine, representing liberal special interests rather then his constituents.

One Down, 39 To Go?

Republicans need to gain 40 seats in November's midterm elections to win control of the House of Representatives. Ten percent of that goal is in Virginia, where targeted incumbent Democrats Rick Boucher (VA-9), Gerry Connolly (VA-11), Glenn Nye (VA-2) and Tom Perriello (VA-5) are being challenged by House of Delegates Majority Leader Morgan Griffith, Keith Fimian, Scott Rigell and Virginia Senator Robert Hurt, respectively. Connolly, Nye and Perriello all are freshmen and Perriello may be the number one GOP target in the entire country given his razor thin victory in 2008 and the 5th's generally conservative leanings (Charlottesville Daily Progress). Perhaps no House win pleased liberals more. Now, according to a poll released yesterday by SurveyUSA for Roanoke television station WDBJ, Representative Perriello may be toast (see American Prospect's Tapped Blog and the Washington Post's Virginia Politics Blog). It shows the 5th to be a blowout already: Hurt up by a 58-35 margin (see National Review Online's Campaign Spot Blog).

While many GOP House candidates are polling well, few have the numbers that elicited a "WOW" from NRO's Jim Geraghty. Of course, polls this early can mean anything and the pros will say SurveyUSA is not a top tier pollster on the lines of Mason-Dixon or Rasmussen Reports. But, SurveyUSA was the first to poll Virginia last summer (51 weeks ago, to be exact) and it had all three statewide races right from the beginning to the very end, including double digit leads when all the more "reputable" polls showed it closer. In fact, one political pro told me the SurveyUSA results were "embarrassing," but the only people embarrassed last November were the doubters and the Democrats.

The numbers are even more astounding considering a hard fought Republican primary, a Libertarian candidate and some TEA Party dissatisfaction with Senator Hurt. (SurveyUSA breaks down its research here.) It admits it has factored Republican turnout to be much greater than Democrat turnout (not surprising since when comparing the U.Va. student drop-of from 2008, where Perriello benefited from a large Barack Obama student turnout, to 2009). However, SurveyUSA says even if it factors in a 50-50 Republican-Democrat turnout, Hurt still wins by 11 points. At this point. (Which would allow the GOP to focus on the other three seats.) But, if the trend holds, it's a remarkable sign for House Republicans — and one down and 39 to go.

Sabato's Crystal Ball In The Poll Vault

Over the last 24 hours two more polls were released, one by Democrat pollsters Public Policy Polling and the other by SurveyUSA for Roanoke television station WDBJ. Neither typically are considered top tier polls — not necessarily in the same league as Mason-Dixon and Rasmussen. But they have shown interesting, sometimes contradictory, results this campaign season. But now both show Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell with commanding double digit leads (14 and 19 points, respectively). Each also has the other two Republican candidates, Lt. Governor Bill Bolling and attorney general nominee Senator Ken Cuccinelli (Fairfax), up by healthy double digit margins. Does the fact that these two newer polls to Virginia politics both show the same trend (though different margins) verify a trend? One who pretty much said so today was U.Va. political soothsayer Larry Sabato. On WRVA radio's Richmond's Morning News With Jimmy Barrett, he wouldn't go that far — yet. But he crept up to to the line, which, for Dr. Sabato, is saying a great deal. He said he would release his Crystal Ball's predictions next week.

Listen to Larry Sabato's interview (6:55) with Jimmy Barrett by clicking here.

Here is the analysis (including methodology) and internal numbers from the two polls, including from the polling organizations themselves:

Public Policy Polling 

McDonnell starting to pull away (PublicPolicyPolling.com)

Another Poll Suggests McDonnell Pulling Away From Deeds (CQPolitics Blog)

McDonnell up 12 pts. in new poll (Norfolk Virginian-Pilot)

Both

McDonnell Opens Double-Digit Lead Over Deeds in Virginia (Politics Daily Poll Watch Blog)

SurveyUSA

Results of SurveyUSA Election Poll #15927 (SurveyUSA.com)

SurveyUSA Shows McDonnell Clinging to a 59–40 Lead (National Review Online's The Campaign Spot Blog)

News7 Poll: Republicans hold comfortable leads in statewide contests (WDBJ7.com)