By Shaun Kenney October 29, 2021
Start ignoring the polls for the next 96 hours. The Democrats and the media are playing games.
First things first.
If you are a seasoned political analyst and you believe for a moment that Virginia swung 13 points in just two weeks? Put your head in a glass jar so we can all examine you for posterity — because there’s no way that happened.
So what is happening with these new polls?
FOX News: Youngkin +8 (was McAuliffe +5)
Co/Efficient: Youngkin +4 (with Blanding at 5?)
WaPo: McAuliffe +1
Wanna know what we call this in the real world? We call this an outlier. And magically — like, whodathunkit?! — that one Fox News poll just magically happens to put Youngkin up a smidge!
I can’t wait for the Democratic pollster to come out showing McAuliffe up by 5 again — right?!?
Here’s another number you may want to check out. Joe Biden’s approval numbers. You’ll notice that these numbers are an improvement from mid-October, where Biden was in double-digit trouble and is now in single-digit trouble:
Quentin Kidd over at Christopher Newport probably has the best finger on the pulse of Virginia at present. His last poll demonstrated that McAuliffe was only up by a single digit, while Sears and Miyares were equally down by one against their putative Democratic opposition. Among likely voters? People have made up their minds.
How many people have made up their minds?
This many according to VPAP (as of 29 October 2021):
So if the hoi polloi wish to believe that Youngkin magically came up 13 points in two weeks, let them have at it.
That would be a swing unheard of in the modern political era in Virginia — bigger than the swing from Obama to McDonnell over 12 month from 2008 to 2009.
That doesn’t happen in two weeks, folks.
So Where Are We Really? No BS; 80 Proof Straight Shot Where Are We?
I’m a big believer in the idea that you run every campaign as if you are the frontrunner and never look behind you. Expressive choice theory in action — and you can tell that Youngkin is doing precisely that. In August it was a campaign, by November it was a movement and the messaging shift alone is paying dividends in real and tangible ways — because it works as an expression of identity (human action in a nutshell).
Of course, no one wants to identify with Terry McAuliffe. Which is why McAuliffe is so desperately trying to shoehorn Youngkin as anything other than himself — Trump most of all.
Which is odd. Cramming two years of inflation into one year is one thing; empty shelves is just plain Soviet supermarket bad. Stack onto it the gender ideology nonsense coupled with Critical Race Theory and forced unionism? If Trump really does run for re-election in 2024? Trump wins — bigly.
If you talk to people in the McAuliffe camp, they are telling folks that they are 2-3 points up and the firewall is holding. They came through the worst August and September they could have come through, and Youngkin was only able to pull alongside but not overwhelm McAuliffe. Biden’s numbers have improved slightly over the last few weeks, the demographics of Virginia haven’t improved for Republicans over the last 10 years, and they are beating Republicans in early voting by a 2:1 margin.
Yet if you talk to people in the Youngkin camp, they insist that they crossed up in September, they have a lead, they continue to have a lead, that lead is growing, we have momentum, we have no specifics, and whatever lead McAuliffe thinks he has is going to be eaten up by Princess Blanding and the Liberation Party.
So what’s the ground truth here? Grab a whiskey.
Here’s what I think is going on:
- The race is going to boil down to Republican enthusiasm on Tuesday. Not much science. If Republicans are motivated to go to the polls, then we win. If we get knocked off a point or two? We lose. Everything else for the next 96 hours is going to be designed to either push or depress Republican turnout on Tuesday.
- The race will still be decided by about 30,000 votes. Put this one in yellow highlighter and staple it to everyone’s forehead. This is a one-point race and we are on the wrong side of the margin of error. Apathy is the enemy; good polls (sic) cultivate apathy. What is more important is the glide path upwards.
- Biden’s numbers are improving but not by enough to push McAuliffe outside of the margin of error. The bleeding has stopped though and the patient is improving somewhat.
- BY THE WAY, I highly resent that Biden is doing a photo opportunity with Pope Francis the day before the Virginia elections. That the Vatican made it a private meeting shows not just how allergic Pope Francis is to politics, but how Francis will likely put a few very direct questions to Biden — especially on matters of gender ideology, life, and religious freedom.
- Polls are going to be designed and leaked to screw around with Republican enthusiasm. Youngkin by 8 might encourage you to think things are in the bag. Youngkin up by a full percentage point — 26,000 votes, folks — means that the race is stupid close. McAuliffe by 5 points seems invincible; McAuliffe by 1 motivates Dems.
- Blanding isn’t going to get five points — sorry, ain’t happening. McAuliffe’s guys are actually worried that their younger white progressive students will vote for her just to flip the system and so forth… but whether that comes to pass is anyone’s guess.
- Democrats are going to do everything in their power to get RVs out to vote now because they literally have no other option — and it isn’t going to matter one damn bit. Remember that McAuliffe wins ever registered voter poll handily, but progressives simply can’t stand McAuliffe. Not enough to get off the couch. So is it cheaper to spend money pushing them out or is it cheaper to tell Republicans to stay home?
- Early voting is going to punch Republicans in the throat. Tuesday is going to feel great right up until those ABs get counted.
Some very good news? Republicans should take back the House of Delegates with about by about 6-9 seats — possibly 12. Republicans will carry a statewide for the first time since 2009. Cash on hand reveals that neither candidate is really outspending the other in order to move the needle much, which means this comes down to the media shoving Youngkin against a wall and trying to steal his lunch money.
If you’re like me, there’s nothing I like doing more than putting my fist into the mouth of a bully. Even several — and that’s literally all the Democrats have left.
THE SHORT VERSION
Youngkin and Miyares and Sears are all down by 1 point. No nonsense, that’s exactly where I think the race is. Virginia is a D+6 state and Youngkin is polling about 5 points ahead of our demographic pool — that’s it.
Meanwhile, McAuliffe is leaning into the ropes hoping to win this on points.
Yet between inflation and gas prices, between empty shelves and gender ideology, between Critical Race Theory and Youngkin finally discovering his Big Idea — Parents Matter — Republicans are closer to winning than at any time since 2014 when the generic ballot was R+5.7 and Gillespie came within 18,000 votes.
The demographics haven’t improved for Virginia Republicans since 2014. Hence the cool water and long perspective.
Oh — and just in case you are a sporting soul?
This is not a poll, mind you. That’s just a prediction of who will actually win this thing — whether by 10 points or 0.5 points.
96 hours to freedom, folks.
Oh, One More Thing!
Youngkin is still polling about in the high teens among black voters.
If exit polling shows Youngkin at 20% with black voters? It’s over.
Not to mention that VP Harris is supposed to be in Norfolk later today at 6 pm. Looks like the only Souls to the Polls effort that will be working for the Dems is for those who have passed on — not those present.
Keep your eye on this dynamic as black voters come back home to the Republican Party on Tuesday.
After all, we are just renting — the GOP is the party of freedom for a reason. Welcome their leadership with open arms.
Shaun Kenney is the editor of The Republican Standard, former chairman of the Board of Supervisors for Fluvanna County, and a former executive director of the Republican Party of Virginia.