Identifying and analyzing emerging trends in campaigns and elections.

Va., Pa. Gubernatorial Glimpses

In Governor, Polling on March 13, 2013 at 11:00 am

Virginia Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling has decided not to enter this year’s gubernatorial campaign as an Independent candidate. In an email communication sent to his supporters that sounded very similar to one he sent on Feb. 28, Bolling indicated that his decision not to run largely revolved around the ability to raise enough money to run a “winning” campaign for Virginia governor, in addition to his distaste for what he terms the “rigid ideology” of today’s modern politics.

“In many ways I fear that the ‘Virginia way’ of doing things is rapidly being replaced by the ‘Washington way’ of doing things and that’s not good for Virginia. As a result, the political process has become much more ideologically driven, hyper-partisan and mean-spirited. Rigid ideologies and personal political agendas are too often placed ahead of sound public policy and legitimate policy disagreements too quickly degenerate into unwarranted personal attacks. This makes it more difficult to govern effectively and get things done,” Bolling wrote as part of his message.

The development should result as a big plus for consensus Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli, the state’s attorney general. Though polling generally indicated that Bolling’s entry really didn’t move the race dramatically toward presumed Democratic nominee Terry McAuliffe, over the course of the campaign that would likely have been the result. Without Bolling in the race trying to chip away moderate Republican support from Cuccinelli, the attorney general will have a better chance of unifying his party’s support for the general election campaign.

Polling has shown that the McAuliffe-Cuccinelli race begins as a dead heat and there is a good chance that the campaign will remain in such a mode all the way through Election Day.

Corbett Down

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett (R) appears to have major re-election problems, if the latest Public Policy Polling survey (March 8-10; 504 registered Pennsylvania voters; 373 “usual” Republicans in an over-sample) is accurate. According to the data, Corbett has a very poor 33:58 percent job approval rating and trails every potential Democratic opponent, even though the group of possible challengers’ familiarity with voters is extremely low.

Against Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D-PA-13), the governor is behind 34-45 percent, even though only 38 percent of the respondents recognize the congresswoman’s name. A similar situation exists with state Treasurer Rob McCord (D). He leads Corbett by an identical count as Schwartz, but is known to only 30 percent of the respondents. Finally, even though businessman Tom Wolf (D) is unknown to 78 percent of the sampling universe, he too leads the governor (42-33 percent).

Perhaps the most troubling group of numbers for Corbett in this survey, however, are those showing his standing among Republicans. According to the over-sample (just 373 self-identified Republicans statewide), Corbett’s numbers within what should be his base voters are even low. Within this group, 43 percent approved of the job he is doing as governor, but 45 percent disapproved. When asked if they would support Corbett for re-election or another Republican, the group responded 49-37 percent in favor of a different individual.

But, when actual individuals supplant the unidentified candidate, Corbett does better. He scores a 43-23 percent advantage over Montgomery County Commissioner Bruce Castor, and a thinner 37-33 percent margin against 2010 GOP Senatorial nominee Tom Smith.

The poll does have its flaws, however. As we have seen, the sample sizes are low, and the skew on the ideological question is far more liberal than the state as a whole. While answering in a 35:34 percent conservative to liberal ratio on the ideology question, the sampling segmentation does properly mirror the state on the Obama-Romney 2012 split. When asked, 48 percent of the respondents claim to have voted for President Obama, while 46 percent supported Mitt Romney, which is relatively close to the actual 52-46 percent actual count. Therefore, the two segments are not consistent.

Regardless of PPP’s minor methodological flaws, the conclusion that Gov. Corbett has serious re-election problems cannot be denied.

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