Saxman: 6 Weeks Away from Early Voting?
Where are the elections right now? It’s close.
It’s been close, it’s staying close, and it’s going to remain close. Unless, of course, something dramatic happens. I know – not exactly earth shattering analysis. Hey, it’s what it is.
Or as British Prime Minister Harold MacMillan replied to the question what influenced his administration the most:
“Events, dear boy, events.”
Before we break down the Virginia polls (when they are released), let’s first look at the national polls as well as the developing national narratives.
Reminder – we are 43 days until voting starts or six weeks from Saturday and we are 88 days until Election Day on November 2nd.
Why the national polls and national narratives? Because national events will have a greater impact on the elections than Virginia events. Those get far more eyeballs on cable news/social media than state level events with the consolidation and atrophy of Virginia news outlets.
As one Virginia Republican strategist told me this week about the media:
It’s not sad. They earned it. They picked a side. Now we just have to get our message to our voters who, by the way, no longer read those papers.
As we have discussed in the past, Virginia is the bellwether of all bellwethers in that our elections succeed and precede national elections. As such, we draw a lot of attention nationally which also brings in tens of millions of direct and indirect campaign resources – both financial and human.
Since the mid 2000s, more money comes into our gubernatorial elections from out of state than is generated from within the Commonwealth. The result of that has been an increasing focus on national issues in state level campaigns. Do you really think campaign reform will ever ban out of state donations?
More and more state or even local candidates must have well thought out positions on national issues or personalities. They can no longer say, “Well, that’s a federal issue or federal person.” That ain’t cutting it.
If something is top of mind when a campaigns knocks on a door, then that’s what the campaign needs to reflect back to the voter if they want to represent them.
Tip O’Neill’s maxim that “All politics is local” could be slowly dying alongside local journalism leaving us a hybrid political aphorism, “Politics is everywhere all the time.”
We might not like it, but like Joe Pesci’s character explains in The Irishman:
So, here’s where it is right now.
President Joe Biden is at 50.6 nationally. In April, he was at 55.5.
November 2020 in Virginia, Biden got 54.1 to Donald Trump’s 44.
Nationally in 2020, Joe Biden finished with 51.3 to Donald Trump’s 46.9.
November 2016 in Virginia, Hillary! Clinton got 49.75 to Trump’s 44. Nationally, it was 48.2 to 46.1
Biden is probably polling in Virginia around 52-53 favorable. Note to self – check where Obama was in 2009 and 2013.
In the Trump cycles, Virginia went slightly more Democratic than the national electorate. A significant reason for that was Donald Trump’s campaign targeting The Swamp and the Inside the Beltway crowd – many of whom vote in Virginia. See Pesci.
When Glenn Youngkin campaigns as an outsider he hasn’t been on the attack. That’s been more of a biographical data point versus a theme. He seems to be framing himself as competent, not confrontational.
Quick reminder – Virginia finished among these states politically in Democratic voting %: Minnesota (52.4) – New Hampshire – Maine – VIRGINIA (54.1) – New Mexico – Colorado – Oregon (56.5).
The National Generic Ballot today, according to Real Clear Politics Average, has the Democrats +1 (45-44).
The last Generic Ballot average in 2020 had the Democrats +6.8 (49.3 – 42.5) with the final tally on Election Day being just +3.1 for the Democrats (50.8 – 47.7).
Things have tightened up considerably since the 2020 elections and are trending away – I would say slightly – from Democrats towards the Republicans. Slight does not mean insignificant. All it takes is enough.
It’s what it is.
All eyes are on Virginia to see just how much has changed with Donald Trump NOT on the ballot this year.
The best analogy I can come up with is weather. It’s hurricane season in Virginia – again. Atlantic storms are coming, the only questions are where is land fall, how big are the storms going to be, or heck will the storms miss us altogether?
Right now, the conditions are too close to call and the forecast looks like things are likely to break slightly more toward the GOP. And no – it’s not too early. We’re six weeks away from early voting.
Total up these storylines.
The pandemic is rearing its ugly reality again. Infections are back up. Hospitalizations are back up. And so is the daily dialogue. The conversation had receded, but is now gathering steam. And just when school is starting back up.
My gut says this helps the GOP in a lower turn out election where suburban families concerned about education tend to show up more to the polls. And a lot of parents are royally pissed about mask mandates. You’ll see if it’s showing up in campaign polling if the candidates start to take positions on it.
Oh, by the way, if you EVER want to see what the gubernatorial campaigns are trying to do just break down their ads and social media accounts. They tell you everything – every word and every image is for a reason. Just this afternoon I received an email from Youngkin’s campaign about public safety and another targeting Salvadoran-Americans while Terry McAuliffe was fundraising on the GOP ground game being paid for by the RNC.
The national Democrats also might include big state governors because they are in the news. California Governor Gavin Newsom is down in the recall election out there and his performance could add to a possible narrative of hypocrisy or anything about the pandemic.
The GOP will frame this is as SEE! They’re all alike!
They don’t have to sell it to everybody and it might not impact your vote, it just has to impact enough votes. If Virginia Republicans bundle it with the state parole board stories or the recent mental health system problems, then you have a structural narrative being embedded.
The campaigns will cut and paste all those headlines and editorials into potentially devastating ads.
Crime is another area Democrats should be concerned about. Public safety cuts across polling cross tabs for a reason. The national narrative on violent crime matters and it can become worse for Democrats if the GOP can link it to local events or stories in Virginia.
Remember the 12 year old girl fatally shot after school by a 14 year old for no reason? That happened in western Henrico County. It won’t resonate in Highland County, but it need not. Western Henrico has a lot more voters than Highland. That’s if those stories are stitched to national narratives and have an affect.
Take New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, please. *Ba-dum-tis*
IF the Democrats can impeach him from office, they can be seen as proactively solving a major problem, right? Right. Democrats could look better. Competent.
But the GOP can counter with remember when our governor was being asked to resign by EVERYBODY and didn’t? However, if the GOP narrative about this plays into an even larger one on the pandemic or the economy or inflation or helps frame other stories that break votes towards them? It could be brutal for Democrats.
*Checks notes – 42 days – tomorrow – voting starts*
You could have a CAT 5 hurricane forming and then all of a sudden Congressional Republicans could shut down the government over the debt ceiling like they did in September of 2013.
VOILA – storm heads back out to sea.
One of the key factors for the Republicans this election is that they are competitive financially – so far. Usually at this time of year they are trying to convince donors and national organizations that they really can win this year. “We’ve got a poll that shows us competitive…” It’s hard to campaign effectively when you are constantly updating your budgets.
And that was before early voting!
If you were close – inside the Margin Of Error (MOE) in polling – around Labor Day then you would be likely to get the national money you needed to be competitive.
This year, with Glenn Youngkin’s personal resources, Republicans are in a far better place structurally.
And that’s a big deal and a very big advantage.
Both gubernatorial campaigns are trying to make the case to the voters that they would be the better choice for business and the economy. That tells me that both of their polling shows some level of anxiety about the economy, inflation, personal finances, or D) all of the above.
Now, throw in the rental evictions issue and you could have that storm rolling back to shore with lower turnouts in certain localities that campaigns might be depending on for votes.
Where and when do you vote if your address suddenly changes? YIKES.
Again as a reminder – Americans have been voting more AGAINST candidates rather than FOR them.
Negative ads play into that and as such they are very effective campaign tools. Glenn Youngkin doesn’t have to get Republicans to vote for his economic plan, he has to get them to vote against Terry McAuliffe by way of <fill in the blank>.
Democrats will try to do the same – getting folks to vote against Youngkin by trying to link him back to Donald Trump.
So, yeah. It is hurricane and campaign season in Virginia – again.
We do this every year. It’s what it is.
And it’s close.
This weekend the menu will feature a great chicken satay and peanut sauce recipe paired with this ratatouille recipe I found in last Saturday’s WSJ and really good pizza dough. I grilled the pizza dough just as an oiled flat bread to serve with the satay and veggies. Great combination made better with a nice crisp chilled white wine.
Michele and I have some family coming around this weekend – Mary Kathryn, her Marine husband (and dog Winston), Michele’s sister Cheryl and our niece Keri – to break up our empty nesting which kicked off July 12th. First time in 28 years and nine days (Mary Kathryn was born July 3rd. Ah). Tuesday marks our 30th and no, 1991 doesn’t seem just like yesterday. 1991 seems like another world ago.
Thanks for reading these newsletters. I always enjoy your feedback. They add to life’s rich blessings.
p.s. Ted Lasso is on tonight so let’s remember to “Be curious, not judgmental.”