Another day, another poll of the Virginia Senate race between Ed Gillespie and Mark Warner. Quinnipiac’s numbers show a contest that’s not out of the Republican’s reach, and for a number of interesting reasons:
Virginia U.S. Sen. Mark Warner leads his Republican challenger, Ed Gillespie 48 – 39 percent among likely voters, with Libertarian candidate Robert Sarvis at 6 percent, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.
With Sarvis out of the race, Sen. Warner has a 50 – 41 percent likely voter lead…
In the three-way matchup, Warner leads 94 – 1 percent among Democrats, with 3 percent for Sarvis. Gillespie leads 78 – 15 percent among Republicans, with 2 percent for Sarvis. Independent voters are split with 43 percent for Gillespie, 41 percent for Warner and 9 percent for Sarvis.
There is a small gender gap as women back Warner 50 – 37 percent, with 3 percent for Sarvis, and men go Democratic 46 – 41 percent, with 9 percent for Sarvis.
So…has Gillespie realized all along he faced match point with Warner and armchair generals like me were dead wrong?
Sure, why not? But the deeper one reads the poll (minus the cross-tabs, which are unavailable to those of us on the outside), the more one could think that this contest has some of the hallmarks of the 2013 gubernatorial race between Ken Cuccinelli and Terry McAuliffe. But with a critical difference: the majority of voters in last year’s election had a negative view of both candidates, the opposite of what we see this year. That could mean Gillespie’s unknown status is playing to his advantage going down the stretch.
But even if we parse, pull and prod the numbers — Gillespie does better among independents, he brings Republicans back to the fold and motivates others to show up — the best we can get using Quinnipiac’s findings is something close to a dead heat (and forget Sarvis…his numbers will, as they did last year, crater come election day).
To win, Gillespie needs a wave:
“Sen. Warner probably has more to fear from outside rather than inside Virginia. If the election turns out to be the kind of national wave for which Republicans are hoping he might be the kind of incumbent who could find himself tossed around like Republicans were in 2006 and Democrats were in 2010.”
What could generate that wave? Very hard to say. If one appears, and it’s big enough, it could swamp even the invincible Mark Warner, who very well may have a low ceiling on his possible vote this year.
It’s not impossible. But that’s leaving a lot to chance. A smart campaign is limbered up now for a sprint to the finish.
Glen Bolger’s memo on the Q-Poll.