Saxman: 11 Reasons Why Virginia Republicans Can Win This Fall
Let’s jump right into it.
Virginia Republicans have a really good chance to win all three statewide offices – Governor, Lt. Governor, and Attorney General – and also winning back the majority in the House of Delegates.
- Virginia is more center-right than center-left. A February CNU Wason center poll showed that Virginia voters self ID 47% center-right vs the 42% who ID as center-left. Ideologically, Republicans have a 5 point lead.
- The national narrative no longer is a wind in their face, but a wind at their back. Recent polling shows this:
Those numbers are hard to ignore and the Republicans need to work on winning Independents back before voting begins in September – but it’s there. This can happen. The numbers have flipped from 2017 when the Democrats won 15 seats in the House and won statewide by 9 points.
- The Virginia Republican base is fired up! Early estimates for the number of delegates signing up for their Unassembled Convention on May 8th were between 25-30,000. The final number of pre-filed delegates was a jaw dropping 53,000+.
- Republicans have a real shot this year to raise as much money as likely Democratic nominee, Terry McAuliffe. In 2013, McAuliffe out raised Republican nominee, Ken Cuccinelli, by a whopping 70% and still only managed to win by two points or 56,000 votes. Cuccinelli raised $2.7MM less than Bob McDonnell did in 2009. McDonnell out raised his Democratic opponent by 40% and won by 17 points. One of the keys to that win was a unified ticket and no real third party candidate.
- So far, it looks like the GOP has avoided a third party candidate running at the top of the ticket. In 2013, Robert Sarvis ran as an Independent/Libertarian candidate and won 6.5% of the vote or 146,000 votes. If GOP had won the Sarvis vote 2 to 1, that would have netted them 49,640 votes and a lot more money. Remember – Republican AG nominee Mark Obenshain lost to Mark Herring by 165 votes that same year.
- Virginia Democrats will exit their June primaries bitterly divided and without Donald Trump to unify against. Can they reunite and get the job done over the summer when many folks will be vacationing for the first time in over a year? That’s a tall order especially since Democrats rely on early voting which will start this year on September 18th. The calendar has compressed.
- There is a potential softness in Democratic enthusiasm for Terry McAuliffe. In breaking down recent polling from Christopher Newport University’s Wason Center, McAuliffe, in February, had a Fave/Unfave rating among Democrats at 25/21 or a net +1.2 rating. That’s not good given where he ended his governorship with Democrats in 2017 – the Macker had an 88% approval rating. It’s now back up to a +4.0 fave/unfave ratio, but that came from targeted communications to the base over the last two months.
- Second point on Terry McAuliffe with Democratic voters and turnout. In 2013, McAuliffe ran unopposed for the nomination. With an 88% approval rating among Democrats and a sizable fundraising advantage, why did he draw FOUR challengers for the primary? Answer – because he isn’t sufficiently progressive for the young, aggressive progressives in the party’s base. Many of these voters have already stated that they will not vote for moderate, center-left candidates preferring them to lose.
- McAuliffe only won with 47.7% of the vote in 2013 and that’s with outspending Cuccinelli by 70%. Now he has the task of not only reintroducing himself to the Democratic base but also unifying his party.
- It is HIGHLY unlikely that U.S. Senate Republicans will shut down the federal government like they did in September 2013. Fiscal issues just aren’t as dominant as they were for the GOP base eight years ago. That shutdown significantly hurt Cuccinelli’s polling and fundraising down the stretch. The shutdown moved his numbers to outside the Margin of Error (MOE) and as such money dried up. Cuccinelli almost had a miracle comeback in October that year when the Obamacare website launched and crashed. He finished well inside the MOE. Too little, too late.
- Possibly the underreported reality of this race – the House GOP won 67 seats the same night Terry McAuliffe and the Democrats swept the Big Three offices in 2013. Most of those districts have the exact same lines from 2013 and even Democratic strategists acknowledge the House – right now – is a toss up.
Boil this all down and Republicans need:
- To keep the base fired up. Joe Biden will help with that.
- To unify the ticket quickly. Early convention date gives them a month head start on Democrats.
- To raise money. The GOP simply cannot be outspent again.
- To spend the money wisely. That means targeting voters they don’t have while making sure those they do have vote.
- To find a compelling narrative without scaring away persuadable voters. Find a lane, stay there and accelerate.
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Having served in the Virginia House of Delegates from 2002-2010, I have been intimately involved in just about every facet of politics. My other newsletter on Substack is called The Intersection – where business and politics meet. That is part of my other day job in which I am Executive Director of Virginia FREE – a non-partisan, non-profit set up in 1988 to better inform Virginia’s business community about politics so that business leaders can effectively engage the political community.
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