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(60,356 posts)
Tue Oct 29, 2013, 12:19 AM Oct 2013

Larry Sabato: A Democratic Tide in Virginia

Some history is being made in Virginia.

The statehouse battle was supposed to be close. But as we look at Virginia’s gubernatorial contest in the stretch, just about everything is moving in a Democratic direction. The final debate Thursday night changed little, in our view — especially because it wasn’t even broadcast statewide.

You might recall that the Crystal Ball was the first ratings agency to tilt the race to ex-Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe (D), and we did so at the end of August. Today we move the race from Leans Democratic to Likely Democratic.....

With the election dynamics moving in the Democrats’ favor, the race for lieutenant governor is now Safe Democratic. Not only is Jackson controversial for his political views, but his campaign has been a mess. New revelations about his past financial problems and his campaign’s failures to properly disclose donations reflect a sloppiness or incompetence that was always going to make it hard for him to win. Now in the final days of the campaign, state Sen. Ralph Northam’s (D) campaign is going to hammer Jackson with television ads and mailers using the large volume of opposition research at its fingertips. Northam has raised significantly more than Jackson, so he will have the resources to do this effectively.

Meanwhile, the battle between the Marks for the state’s attorney general position is going to be the real race to watch on election night. Because of the likely coattails from McAuliffe and Northam, we’re moving this very close race from Toss-up to Leans Democratic. Here’s why:

Unlike his ticket-mates, state Sen. Mark Obenshain (R) has run a strong race, with a smart series of campaign ads (often featuring his articulate daughter) steering him toward the middle of the road. While Obenshain has a firmly conservative record, he has done an excellent job of emphasizing the parts of his bio that have the broadest appeal. With some exceptions, Obenshain has largely kept the GOP behind his candidacy. Whereas some moderate and business Republicans have openly endorsed McAuliffe in the gubernatorial race, many of those same individuals have backed Obenshain. In fact, national Republicans are moving money toward Obenshain in an effort to make him a firewall against a Democratic sweep on Election Day........

Further down the ballot, the effect of a solid McAuliffe victory on the House of Delegates is telling. While Republicans are certain to hold onto the House, as we discussed back in August, Democrats may be in a position to pick up more seats that we thought possible at that time. As reported by the Richmond Times-Dispatch’s political guru Jeff Schapiro, Democrats believe they may have a shot at 10 seats while Republicans concede there could be six to eight in play. Given that Republicans currently hold 68 seats (counting an independent who caucuses with the GOP) in the 100-member House of Delegates, a reasonable goal for Democrats would be to cut the Republican advantage down to 60-40. As long as there aren’t any shake-ups in the gubernatorial race in the final week and a half, a net gain of six to eight seats seems possible for Democrats.


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