Cold Fusion – Governor’s Race Edition

While there are six weeks until Virginia’s annual election day, the race for Governor will be over in four.

The Virginia electorate usually makes up its collective mind around the third week in October and rarely changes its mind.

It’s part of the ebb and flow of the calendar in Virginia. Labor Day kicks off the second half of the political season and these next four weeks are akin to the fourth quarter with the remaining two weeks like the NFL’s two minute mark. And it’s usually over by then.

Recent aggregated polling shows Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe holding a consistent, on average, four point lead over Republican Ken Cuccinelli.

McAuliffe’s lead is very precarious given the fact that his voters are less enthusiastic than Cuccinelli’s.

And not by a little.

Cooch’s voters are eight points more likely to vote for him than TMac’s are.

If their enthusiasm were equal, this would probably be rated as a Likely Democratic win, but the enthusiasm gap makes this race a VERY SLIGHT LEAN DEMOCRATIC at this point.

Even more encouraging for Cuccinelli is the fact that the wind is starting to turn to his back with the Northern Virginia Tech PAC endorsement, the McAuliffe campaign’s inexplicable response to that, and that the Star Scientific/McDonnell stories are less and less frequently seen clogging up the headlines.

That makes room for Cuccinelli to get his message out, counter the narrative McAuliffe is framing, and close his obvious fundraising deficit.

McAuliffe, on the other hand, will keep pounding away with negative ads and try to draw down the enthusiasm lead Cooch currently has.

Democrats are not worried about McAuliffe’s finances. He will have plenty of money to finish out his campaign plan. What worries Democrats is that their candidate has no message other than Cuccinelli is bad. If there is another message, it is being drowned out by all the negative advertising.

A month from now, if this thing is tied (and it very well could be), money and message will make the candidate’s two minute drill work. But they have to have both.

Right now, Cuccinelli’s enthusiasm lead should be translating into better Absentee Ballot performance and if he has the money to close out the final two weeks, he very well could win.

If McAuliffe’s money is negating that early enthusiasm with boots on the ground cranking up his Absentee Balloting, he could have a slight lead heading into election day.

Until then, here’s what the polls will not tell you – who has already voted and where that has happened.

The campaigns will know IF their staff and volunteers are not just running their play books but, as they also say in football, finishing their blocks. In this case, making sure that the Absentee Ballot is not just mailed, but actually voted and sent in to the correct address.

A couple of things to watch out for in the last four to six weeks –

1) ObamaCare exchanges start October 1st. Cuccinelli helped lead a national effort to stop this unpopular law.

2) Syria Chemical Weapons Inspections. Forgot about that? A military strike, which Cuccinelli opposes, would harm Democratic turnout.

3) The Fairfax Chamber of Commerce Debate tomorrow night (9/25) and the Chamber’s up coming endorsement. One bad gaffe here will cost someone big time. It will either kill a narrative or cement it.

4) October surprise. There will be more than one attempted; however, one will stick and make a BIG difference down the stretch because voters are just starting to engage this election.

I’ve already made my side bets as to what it is and who wins as a result. NOT TELLING.

Only six weeks to go. Avert your eyes, cover your ears, and hide the children.

It’s been negative and that will continue.

Enthusiasm versus money at this point.

In a low turnout election, take enthusiasm.

But don’t bet on it.

Money matters. Always has and always will.

Chris Saxman

About Chris Saxman

Father of four, small business leader, retired politician, and Executive Committee member and former Chairman of an international trade association, Chris Saxman delivers strategy and insight as a political coach and keynote speaker. Contact Chris.

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