Two new polls, two new shots under the waterline for the GOP

Two new polls are out, one from Politico and another from Christopher Newport University that have crushing headline numbers for the GOP statewide candidates.

First, the Politico poll, which shows Terry McAuliffe with a 44-35 lead over Ken Cuccinelli. Libertarian Robert Sarvis pulls a strong 12 percent.

You can roam through the cross tabs to find what numbers interest you. But for me, the fascinating figures are what the race would look like without Sarvis on the ballot. With Sarvis, the gender gap between McAuliffe and Cuccinelli is eight points. Without Sarvis, it expands to 10.

On the partisan split, Cuccinelli bleeds 11 percent of the GOP vote to Sarvis, while McAuliffe loses six percent of Democrats. Take Sarvis out of the equation and the partisans settle more closely to their standard bearers. But independents go overwhelmingly to McAuliffe.

Not that independents like McAuliffe. Among them, his unfavorable rating is 54 percent. But Cuccinelli manages to fair even worse — 60 percent of independents just don’t like him.

There are other indicators — race and age — which show Sarvis holding the balance.

The CNU poll, which may be an outlier, has some interesting bits on the downticket races. It shows Democrat Ralph Northam with a whopping 11 point lead among likely voters. In the AG race between Mark Obenshain and Mark Herring, it shows Herring with a three-point advantage.

Even if this poll is out of whack with others, it’s the headlines that matter, and they are not good at all for the GOP. The Politico poll, in particular, is a gut punch.

At the end of August, when Larry Sabato changed his rating on the governor’s race to “leans Democratic,” I speculated we could see a repeat of the 2001 election, where the only Republican to win statewide was Jerry Kilgore.

Some may recall that 2001 was the last time the Libertarians fielded a gubernatorial candidate. Bill Redpath. He garnered a paltry .77 percent of the vote. The key difference this time out is that voters appear to loathe, in their bones, the major party candidates. Sarvis is an empty vessel — largely unknown, and therefore a prime candidate for the “none of the above” vote.

That means Sarvis has a huge opportunity. I’m becoming more convinced that he will do well enough to give the party a ballot slot in the next few elections. And also that his vote will hold the eventual winner under 50 percent.