Friday, August 30, 2013

As Labor Day approaches, situation dire for Cuccinelli

Heading into the crucial Labor Day weekend, two new polls show Cuccinelli trailing Terry McAuliffe by 7 to 10 points.

The Emerson College Poll, which I have to admit I know nothing about, shows Cuccinelli (35%) trailing McAuliffe (45%) by ten points. The very well regarded PPP Poll--which Republicans will whine is a Democratic poll--shows McAuliffe with 44% and Cuccinelli at 37%, Robert Sarvis at a respectable 9%, and 9% undecided. These numbers are consistent with earlier polls showing a steady downward trend for Cuccinelli, though I suspect the Emerson College Poll may overstate the case and may be something of an outlier.

Coming as it does just before Labor Day weekend, this news is serious trouble for Ken Cuccinelli. In Virginia politics, Labor Day weekend has always been seen as the beginning of the sprint to Election Day. People who have avoided thinking about politics are going to run into their more political friends a relatives at cookouts, and these grassroots surrogates will begin the process of trying to persuade the undecided. In my experience, undecideds tend to break at roughly the same percentages as those who have already decided--thus McAuliffe is likely to get 44-45% of the undecided votes, while Cuccinelli may only get 35-37% of the undecideds. I'm even beginning to suspect a small conservative shift to Sarvis as a protest vote against the Republican Party of Virginia's poor ticket.

Another problem Cuccinelli faces at this time of year is his lack of effective surrogates. As Virginians begin paying attention to the elections, the number of public appearances by both candidates will go up sharply, but in the end each candidate is just one man, and can't be everywhere at once. That's where surrogates become important.

What if you want to hold a rally in support of your candidate, but the candidate himself can't be there? You need a surrogate, someone who can stand in for the candidate, draw a crowd, and make a convincing case on behalf of the candidate.

Terry McAullife's list of potential surrogates is long and impressive. In no particular order: Senator Mark Warner, Senator Tim Kaine, Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Governor Linwood Holton, President Barack Obama, his running mates Ralph Northam and Mark Herring, and many many more. McAuliffe's people might even be able to coax former Senator Jim Webb out for an appearance as long as it was close to home and he could incorporate history into his theme. There are also a host of popular Democrats from out of state who could come to Virginia on McAuliffe's behalf.

Now ask yourself, who can Cuccinelli use as a surrogate? Bob McDonnell? Nope. George Allen? Perhaps, but very limited appeal. Jim Gilmore? Ugh, no. Bill Bolling? Bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!  The Republican candidate for Attorney General, Mark Obenshain, might not embarrass Cuccinelli, but the last thing Cuccinelli wants is Lieutenant Governor candidate E.W. Jackson speaking on his behalf. For all intents and purposes, Cuccinelli has no running mates, as Obenshain may want to put some distance between himself and Cuccinelli. John Warner isn't going to help Cuccinelli. Eric Cantor might be persuaded to help, but he's a busy guy and is generally hated outside his own 7th Congressional District, so no real help there. What about some help from out of state? Chris Christie has his own race to run and is from a different part of the GOP than extreme Cuccinelli--highly unlikely. Sarah Palin? Hah, Palin would come if Cuccinelli paid her speaking fee, and she'd probably knock him down two more points in the polls. Bobby Jindal? I don't see him making much difference. Cuccinelli's situation is so dire that Republicans with national reputations might be reluctant to associate with what may be an incipient electoral disaster for the Republican Party of Virginia.

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