The month of August might have been tough for the GOP’s gubernatorial nominees Bob McDonnell and Chris Christie, but neither has seen his fortunes drop enough to lose the lead.
That is in particular the case in Virginia, where two polls taken after the Washington Post published a front-page story about McDonnell’s master thesis show little effect on the Republican’s lead. While both surveys are already a week-old, I don’t seem to have mentioned them, so here we go:
- In a poll entirely taken on September 1st, Rasmussen finds McDonnell up 51% to 42% - up from a 8% lead in early August.
- In a poll taken from September 1st to September 3rd, SUSA has McDonnell dominating Creigh Deeds 54% to 42%. That’s actually a slight improvement for Deeds, who trailed by 15% in late July.
The latter survey finds the two candidates tied in Northeastern Virginia. It also shows that the composition of the likely 2009 electorate is substantially skewed to the right compared to that of November 2008: African-Americans make up 17% of the sample (20% in 2008), Republicans have a 36-32 edge (Democrats outnumbered them 39-33 in 2008). All of this might seem like an outlier if other surveys (whether The Washington Post or PPP’s August polls) had not also found a red-leaning electorate and a dreadful Deeds performance in NoVa.
In short, Deeds still has a lot of work to do to motivate Democrats to come out and vote. Hitting McDonnell’s social conservatism might not be what the party wanted to be doing in the final months before the election, but given these poll numbers they have no choice if they want to energize their base. As such, the Deeds campaign is now out with an ad that focuses on abortion and birth control to hit McDonnell for his “crusade to take Virginia backwards:”
Northern Virginians might also hear more about another story The Washington Post front-paged last week, this one on McDonnell’s efforts to keep an openly gay judge off the bench. From the story: “McDonnell indicated that Askew’s sexual conduct was relevant, telling one newspaper that ‘certain homosexual conduct’ could disqualify a person from being a judge because it violates the state’s crimes against nature law.”
Meanwhile, the GOP are hitting back by focusing on economic issues. The RGA is out with an ad warning voters that Deeds’s priority is “pumping up spending, pumping up taxes, even in a bad economy:”
That’s right, in a Governor’s race fought in a Southern state, Democrats are emphasizing social issues while Republicans are trying to center the conversation on the economy. A sign of Virginia’s transformation, or of the determinant role Northern Virginia has come to occupy in the state?
Christie also maintains his lead
Jon Corzine’s inability to progress in the latest polls has to be an even greater source of frustration for Democrats given that the former U.S. Attorney has taken far bigger hits in recent weeks than has McDonnell. After all, just days after I last wrote about the 13 tickets Christie had amassed over 25 years, a new driving controversy erupted: In 2002, Christie was not ticketed after he injured a motorcyclist by turning the wrong way.
The worse part of the story: “Elizabeth Police Director James Cosgrove said Christie identified himself as the state’s U.S. attorney after the motorcycle accident.” This is not the first time a police chief has alleged that Christie cited his position when pulled over.
It’s a testament to how much voters distrust Corzine that he is not able to take advantage of these stories to rebound. Last week, Quinnipiac and Farleigh Dickinson polled the Garden State and little difference from their previous surveys. Today, we got two new surveys:
- In a poll taken yesterday, Rasmussen has Christie leading 46% to 38%, with 6% for Chris Daggett. That’s the same margin as on August 25th, when Christie was up 50% to 42% (Daggett was then not included).
- In a poll taken Tuesday and yesterday, Democracy Corps has Christie leading 41% to 38%, with Daggett at 10%. That is an encouraging margin for the governor, but Democracy Corps has by far been the friendliest of pollsters for Corzine; their last survey, released last week, had him trailing 43% to 41%, with 7% for Daggett.
What I find most worrisome for Corzine’s camp is that Daggett’s growth is not coming at Christie’s expense. After all, the presence of a credible independent candidate made it a highly plausible scenario that some voters, turned off by the stories that surrounded Christie through August but unwilling to vote for Corzine, would move over to Daggett instead. That does not look to be happening: While the latter poll finds Daggett at 10% (an impressive result for any independent contender), that remains in the rough range he’s been in for the past month.
Will that change once Daggett introduces himself to voters - after all, he has qualified for matching funds - and once he participates in debates. His campaign has just released an ad in which he mocks both major parties’ nominees via the use of impersonators; that’s not necessarily the way for voters to figure out who Daggett is, but the anti-establishment argument should be a powerful one in New Jersey right now: