Home AFP InDepth | What about downticket?

AFP InDepth | What about downticket?


Bob McDonnell clearly appears to be pulling away from Creigh Deeds at the top of the ticket in Virginia’s state races. At first glance, Republican Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling and GOP attorney-general candidate Ken Cuccinelli would seem to be on their way to victories on Nov. 3 as well.

A poll conducted by Christopher Newport University puts a different look on the downticket races, and suggests that there’s room for Democratic lieutenant-governor candidate Jody Wagner and ticketmate Steve Shannon in the attorney-general race to pull off upsets on Election Day.

“A lot of voters simply don’t know about the downticket races,” CNU political-science professor Quentin Kidd said. “They’re not seeing a lot of reporting on them in newspapers, they’re not seeing a lot of TV coverage about them. They’re seeing some commercials, but quite frankly I think the commercials get drowned out by the top-of-the-ticket commercials. For every downticket commercial, there must be seven or eight upticket commercials.

“A lot of voters are just uncertain about the downticket candidates,” Kidd said.


Kidd discusses the CNU poll with AFP editor Chris Graham


How uncertain? The Christopher Newport poll took a different tack from the litany of polls being floated around in the walkup to the election, not pushing undecided voters into expressing their preferences in favor of following up with questions to try to get a sociodemographic profile of that part of the electorate.

In so doing, the poll found, predictably, that McDonnell, the Republican nominee, is comfortably ahead of Deeds, the Democratic nominee, with 45 percent of the voters polled expressing a preference for McDonnell and just 31 percent expressing a preference for Deeds. It was downticket where things got interesting. Bolling, whose lead in most polls has been in the 10-point range of late, still had the lead in the CNU poll, but only by a 29 percent-to-25 percent margin over Wagner, with 45 percent undecided. And Cuccinelli, whose lead in a Public Policy Polling survey released today was 15 points, was up on Shannon only five in the CNU poll, 31 percent to 26 percet.

“I don’t find that really surprising,” Kidd said. “You tell me how much attention the downticket candidates have been getting. I don’t see them getting any attention except for the ads they have on TV, ads they’re paying for themselves.”

What happens down the stretch downticket still depends a lot on what happens in the McDonnell-Deeds race.

“If Bob McDonnell wins the governor’s race handily, then that certainly helps the downticket Republicans. But I think if it’s a close race or if Deeds wins by even a small margin, I think the downticket Republicans may also have to worry,” Kidd said.

Certainly at this point it would seem that the best Democrats could hope for is Deeds getting back to within, say, five or six points of McDonnell, and that the surge that could bring Deeds to within hailing distance would bring with it something of coattails for Wagner and Shannon.

“McDonnell could have coattails, but Deeds could also have coattails. That’s what makes turnout for the Deeds campaign, and it makes the next two weeks of trying to energize and mobilize your base, very important for the Deeds campaign,” Kidd said.


– Story by Chris Graham





Have a guest column, letter to the editor, story idea or a news tip? Email editor Chris Graham at [email protected]. Subscribe to AFP podcasts on Apple PodcastsSpotifyPandora and YouTube.