No electoral group has so rewarded Democrats so much as minorities. And as a result it gives Democrats a rock solid base of support in the Virginia Governor’s race. In 2009 these voters only made up 22% of the electorate but they also backed Creigh Deeds with over 70% of their vote. In fact, they were the only group that gave Creigh Deeds over 50% of the vote in that election. So, with a close race brewing in Virginia the question must be asked, will minorities swing the Virginia gubernatorial race Democrat’s way?
Democrats believe it will and a new survey from Quinnipiac backs them up. The survey, admittedly taken before Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe has been attacked on corruption allegations (Greentech), shows him with a 48%-42% lead over Republican candidate Ken Cuccinelli. Without repeating the poll results verbatim, Democrats made up 30% of the electorate compared to just 23% Republican and 39% Independent. In contrast to 2009 when whites made up 78% of the electorate they only make 72% of the electorate in the survey. Keep in mind they only made up 70% in 2012. The other notable highlight from the survey is its finding that whites only back Cuccinelli 42% to 50%. The survey only included blacks as another demographic group and they back McAuliffee 74%-7%.
If the survey is accurate it suggests that Cuccinelli has series problems and the GOP needs to revamp its efforts to turn out its white base. But there are reasons to doubt that minority turnout will be close or even eclipse 2012 levels. First-off, the Quinnipiac survey weighted its results which suggests they had more Republicans and whites in the original survey. The pollster did not reveal what it based its weighting on but it is reasonable to believe it was because their LV model was extremely loose and cast a wide net. Second, OFA, Organizing for America, the Barack Obama campaign arm that assembled so much voter data has so far refused to share its data with the McAuliffee campaign. Third, Democrats have reportedly had trouble connecting with Presidential voters in NoVA, their base of support in the state.
Cuccinelli is certainly in no position to feel good however. His strong social positions have allowed him to be painted as extreme by Democrats. Governor McDonnell’s ongoing scandal has also tarnished his campaign. But Cuccinelli can count on strong turnout in SoVA and the Central-West region of the state. Those areas of the state have a strong social conservative contingent.
No other poll has been taken in over a month (minus Quinnipiac). Quinnipiac’s poll is among likely voters, the first in the race, though it might explain why its LV model was so loose. Polls taken in July, from Roanoke College and PPP suggested a differing electorate from each other and Quinnipiac. The partisan ID of the RC poll found 29% identified as Democrat, 28% as Republican, 22% Independent and an unusually high 20% as other/none. The survey identified an electorate 76% white and 17% black with 7% identifying as other. PPP’s survey suggested a partisan gap of 37% Democratic, 32% Republican and 31% Independent. Racially 75% identified as white and 18% as black.
These older surveys suggest a more traditional Gubernatorial electorate. More white than the last Presidential election but less so than the last Governor’s race. Quinnipiac’s survey suggests the exact opposite. It is impossible to know for sure whether this is true or not until more surveys come out but reports from the ground suggest general apathy towards the race among the undecided and low attention voters. Indeed, Quinnipiac found a normal pattern, 82% of GOP supporters were closely/moderately paying attention to the election compared to 75% of Democratic supporters.
All this brings us back to the original question. Will minorities swing the race? They certainly have the voting power to do so if they show up in big numbers. Polling has been scarce and as a result most of what is written here is conjecture. But this assumption can be made with a high degree or certainty. If minorities turn out in numbers well above 2009 and close to 2012 levels the night belongs to McAuliffe. But if the electorate closely resembles 2009 (or 2010) than Cuccinelli will have caught a huge break. We will see!