Petition Scandal Deflates Scott Taylor’s Supporters

It’s been clear for some weeks that Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District race between incumbent Rep. Scott Taylor (R) and Democratic nominee Elaine Luria was going to be close. But new polling suggests the race might be slipping away from Taylor, thanks to a series of self-inflicted wounds.

The new data comes in an internal Luria campaign poll released Monday. The headline: Luria leads Taylor 51 percent to 43 percent, with 6 percent undecided.

That’s a big swing from the last poll — released in April, before Luria was the Democratic nominee — showing Taylor leading 48 percent to 42 percent.

For Democratic partisans, this is all good news — never mind that partisan outfits conducted both polls, and, as a rule, internal numbers released publicly should be viewed with suspicion.

For Luria’s backers, the number show that Taylor is in free fall after a Richmond judge issued a withering opinion in a petition-signature scandal involving four Taylor campaign staffers.

He might be. Until we have independent polling data on the race, there’s no way to check whether the trend the partisan data indicates is real or merely wishful thinking.

That said, Luria’s campaign is doing exactly the right thing. It’s driving a narrative that the petition scandal has given her an “added advantage” and “raised very real concerns” about Taylor, all of which “provides important momentum” in the run-up to Election Day.

The results of a Virginia State Police investigation looking into what role Taylor might have played won’t be known until after the election.

That effectively fixes a cloud over the incumbent.

For a ground-level take on the race, I asked Christopher Newport University professor Quentin Kidd what he’s seeing in the 2nd District and whether Taylor could find a way to get back on track.

Kidd said that while the internal Luria poll should be viewed skeptically, it’s still “probably generally accurate.”

 “I’m all over the district talking with groups and people all of the time,” Kidd said in an email, “and I easily pick up that the petition issue has hurt Taylor in subtle but substantial ways.”

That doesn’t mean Republicans will abandon Taylor for Luria. But, Kidd said, “it has depressed their enthusiasm” for him.

“[Republicans] aren’t as optimistic and energetic about Taylor as they were,” Kidd said, and are “a little deflated.”

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