The X Factor in Virginia’s 7th Congressional District

The headline numbers in the most recent Wason Center poll confirm what we learned a month ago: Virginia’s 7th Congressional District race between incumbent Rep. Dave Brat (R) and Democratic nominee Abigail Spanberger is a pure toss-up.

But inside the numbers are a few nuggets that help us identify trends, ongoing challenges, and an X factor.

The most important trend: Brat’s overall numbers still don’t push beyond 50 percent. Traditionally, when an incumbent polls less than 50 percent, particularly at this very late stage a race, that incumbent is in real trouble.

A challenge, for Brat: voter enthusiasm. The Wason poll shows a 16 percentage point “enthusiasm gap” between Democrats and Republicans. Generally, supporters of the party out of power are more excited to vote. But there’s another story behind this particular data point.

The Wason Center’s Rachel Bitecofer told me Spanberger’s biggest group of motivated voters is “white, college-educated women,” a group Bitecofer says has been in play since the 2016 presidential election.

Spanberger has a 14 percentage point advantage over Brat among women overall.

“That’s not great for Brat,” Bitecofer said. “These women will show up to vote.”

But even with that motivated group of voters, Bitecofer said, the Spanberger campaign still has a lot of work to do in the race’s final days to have a shot at victory.

“To win, Spanberger has to fundamentally transform the electorate in the 7th District,” Bitecofer said.

“No matter what Democrats say or think,” Bitecofer said, “they will need a huge Democratic turnout, on par or better than what Ralph Northam’s campaign got in the 2017 governor’s race.”

Continue reading here.

Also from Norm Leahy:

Dave Brat’s Out of Tune
On the ‘Flip List’: Dave Brat and Barbara Comstock
Why Dave Brat Should Dodge Corey Stewart
Rep. Dave Brat’s Rural Redoubt
Voters May Have An Unwelcome Surprise Waiting for Dave Brat