A GOP Opportunity in Virginia?

Entering the final fortnight of the Senate races, something of a pattern has started to develop. Republicans are leading in the Real Clear Politics average of recent polling in all states that were to the right of the national average in the 2012 election (which President Obama won by 4 points), with two exceptions: Kansas, which is tied; and North Carolina, where Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan is clinging to a 2-point lead but has less than 46 percent support.  These right-of-center states in which the GOP is leading include six where seats are currently held by Democrats:  Arkansas, Alaska, Louisiana, South Dakota, Montana, and West Virginia.

In all states that were at least 3 points to the left of the national average in the 2012 election (so states where Obama won by at least 7 points), Democrats are leading.  These include several contested races, such as in Minnesota (4 points to the left of the national average in 2012), Michigan (5 points), New Mexico (10), Oregon (12), Illinois (17), and New Jersey (18).

That leaves three states that were less than 3 points to the left of the national average in the 2012 election — and the president’s Obamacare-induced 42 percent approval rating has put them very much in play this time around.  Indeed, Republican candidates are leading in Colorado (1 point to the left of the national average in 2012) and Iowa (2), and Scott Brown is narrowly trailing in New Hampshire (2).

Then there’s Virginia. Versus the country as a whole, Virginia is as down-the-middle as could be:  Obama won reelection nationally by 3.9 points; he won in Virginia by 3.9 points.  Based on 2012 (and 2008 and 2004), Virginia is to the right of Colorado, Iowa, and New Hampshire — and Republicans are showing they can do quite well in those races.  Moreover, as Kim Strassel, Ramesh Ponnuru, and Ross Douthat have all noted in recent days, Virginia GOP Senate candidate Ed Gillespie is running an unusually (for this cycle) ideas-focused, reform-minded campaign.  In particular, he’s the only GOP Senate candidate so far who has advanced a genuine alternative to Obamacare.  So why have national Republican consultants and donors so overlooked this race?

Incumbent Mark Warner, who voted for Obamacare, is somewhat reeling from alleged ethical violations involving possible discussions of a federal judgeship for the daughter of a key Democratic state senator whose position was important to Democrats’ efforts to expand Obamacare in the state.  Even before that accusation recently came to light, Gillespie had cut Warner’s 20-point lead essentially in half, and Warner’s support is under 50 percent.  (There has been no polling since the accusation surfaced.)

Given how saturated the airwaves are in most other winnable races, Republicans who are looking for a place where they can get the most bang for their buck in the closing days of the 2014 campaign might want to cast their eyes toward the Old Dominion.

With 13 days left until the election, Virginia has the feel of the race that might end up seeming like the one that got away.  So why let it get away?

Jeffrey H. Anderson
  Virginia Republican Alliance

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