Ralph Northam and the Democratic ticket have a slim early lead according to a poll released on Tuesday by the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at Virginia Commonwealth University.
The already two-week old poll ran between July 17th and 25th and gives Ralph Northam a 5 point lead in the race for Governor over Republican Ed Gillespie. The poll also gives comparable leads for Democrats Justin Fairfax and Mark Herring over Republicans Jill Vogel and John Adams in the races for Lieutenant Governor and Attorney General.
While the top lines have given the media a story to run with, Democrats are rightfully worried about the crosstabs showing a closer race than they’d want this early in the game considering Northam is behind Gillespie on fundraising and campaigning.
Four Key Points That Have Democrats Worried
1) VCU/Princeton Research Surveys B+ polling runs contrary to recent Monmouth A+ poll and Northam’s own internals
Don’t let the numbers fool you. Northam’s own polling more closely matches the Monmouth poll that ran between July 20th and 23rd and shows a tied race. Also, Princeton Research Surveys suffers from a 69% accuracy rating when calling races compared to Monmouth’s 85% according to Nate Silver and 538. Why?
2) VCU’s methodology is flawed
VCU’s polled 7% more Democrats than Republicans, a number more closely aligned with Presidential turnout than off year statewide races in Virginia. But despite that…
3) Northam is underperforming in the middle
Despite polling 7% more Democrats than Republicans, VCU only gives Northam a 5 point lead, which is the margin of error for the poll.
And among Independents who will swing this election, Northam is starting way behind. According to VCU’s polling, Northam is dead last among independents. Not only is he losing to Gillespie, but Northam is trailing Libertarian Cliff Hyra by 7 points!
This comes after Northam spent his entire warchest in a bruising primary to out race Tom Perriello to the left. Now he has to make up ground not just with the moderates in his own party, but reintroduce himself to independent voters who will swing this election. Unfortunately for Northam, Gillespie’s already on the air…
4) The poll was taken before Ed Gillespie went on the air
Gillespie’s campaign was the first on the air starting July 25th, already moving the needle as the VCU poll results were being tabulated.
Bonus Frets For Down Ballot Democrats
– Despite incumbency, Mark Herring can’t shake John Adams
Mark Herring has been running for Attorney General for nearly eight years – including the last four campaigning from the Attorney General’s office. Adams, lacking that luxury, is still able to keep pace with Herring, boosted by solid fundraising numbers and the backing more Virginia Sheriffs than Herring, a stinging endorsement against the Attorney General these sheriffs have had to work with for the last four years.
– Jill Vogel’s just getting started against Justin Fairfax
With a +7 Democrat sample, Fairfax is able to claim a lead in the Lieutenant Governor’s race. But Vogel has raised more money ($1.8mil vs $1.3mil), focused on building a statewide network during the primary while Fairfax focused on NOVA, and had more cash on hand starting the general election campaign ($87k vs $71k). Fairfax is going to have a hard time keeping up with Vogel as panicking Democrats focus money and efforts at the struggling Northam campaign on the top of the ticket.
With under 3 months to go until election day, Democrats have a lot of reasons to be worried. Their Republican counterparts have stronger established ground games, deeper pockets, and are already on the air while Northam and the rest of the ticket are still getting their footing. As both sides make the case for Virginia voters, Democrats already have a lot of catching up to do.