A Trump Country Toss-Up in Virginia’s 5th Congressional District

The one-time sleeper race in Virginia’s 5th Congressional District between Republican Denver Riggleman and Democrat Leslie Cockburn is now a toss-up.

Back in late May, I wrote that after incumbent GOP Rep. Tom Garrett’s decision to drop his reelection bid, Republican chances of holding the 5th District were better and would get even more so if they selected a challenger able to run a tough, aggressive, well-funded campaign.

Instead, after a bizarre nominating convention, Republicans opted for the tyro Riggleman. His messaging may fit the GOP-leaning District — it’s not wildly different from Garrett’s. But Riggleman’s fundraising has been anemic.

Those numbers, combined with the general political climate and a very well funded Cockburn campaign, have — apparently — changed a lean-GOP race into a toss-up.

Writing in Sabato’s Crystal Ball, managing editor Kyle Kondik says the 5th “is not a district that one might think would elect a Democrat under normal circumstances.”

Donald Trump won here by 11 percentage points in 2016. Ed Gillespie won the 5th by 9 percentage points in 2017.

But until the New York Times/Siena College poll was completed earlier this week, we had no independent data on the race. What we got was a statistical tie: Cockburn leading Riggleman 46-45 percent, with 10 percent undecided.

Granted, this is just a snapshot of the race. Those numbers will change. But the Times ran the data through several turnout models to see where voters may be heading.

Only one — in which the 2018 electorate looks like it did in 2014, when then-incumbent Rep. Robert Hurt easily won reelection — favored Riggleman.

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