CNU’s new Judy Wassen Public Policy Center poll out last week may be an early portend of things to come.
Our new morning line odds on the 2017 Virginia gubernatorial races are out! The primary election for both of Virginia’s major political parties is Tuesday, June 13. Any Virginia registered voter can request a ballot for either party. The nominations are decided by plurality, there is no run-off. The highest vote getter wins. Primary voters are not bound in the general election.
GOP Governor- Primary
Ed Gillespie – 1:5
Gillespie is now the overwhelming prohibitive favorite to be the GOP nominee. The CNU poll has him at 38 percent, with 38 percent undecided. Opponents Corey Stewart and Frank Wagner are at 11 and 10 percent, respectively.
If Stewart and Wagner evenly split 80 percent of the undecided vote, which is highly unlikely, Gillespie still romps with 45.6 percent. The Gillespie campaign has assembled a significant 15 strong paid statewide staff, and they claim they have signed up 6,000 active volunteers. These ground game numbers dwarf their opposition.
The former U.S. Senate candidate seems to have learned much from his “close but no cigar” loss to U.S. Senator Mark Warner in 2014. Gillespie’s message of “for all Virginians” may not be awe inspiring, but it beats “G squared” of 2014, which I thought was some sort of an isosceles triangle equation from my freshman college geometry class.
The cornerstone of Gillespie’s campaign is a 10 percent across the board personal state income tax reduction. This will certainly appeal to both the heart and pocketbooks of working class Republicans. The wonkish, dry and overly scripted campaign of ’14 has given way to a more passionate candidate with some pop and pizazz, energized by his tax cut plan. A typical Virginia family of four would pocket $1,300, or just over $100 per month. For many struggling middle class families, that makes a real difference in their lives.
The front-runner’s cash on hand advantage is significant, and I predict he’ll drop around $1.5 million on television in the final weeks to increase his already high name profile. The other campaigns can’t match this outlay, which has the potential to put Gillespie over the 50 percent mark.
Something dramatic has to occur – and fast – to deny the GOP nomination to Gillespie.
Frank Wagner – 7:1
I never, ever count Wagner out.
But this race is getting tougher for him as each day goes by. The Virginia Beach state senator has run a gutsy campaign where he has stuck by his positions and told the truth. Where that eventually lands him in a statewide Republican primary remains to be seen, but he’ll continue to be a force to be reckoned with in the General Assembly if he does not capture the governor’s mansion.
Wagner has defended the 2013 transportation tax, the 2015 Dominion rate freeze, and now calls for a gasoline tax increase in lieu of tolls and bonds to rebuild Virginia’s crumbling infrastructure. While you may not agree with him, he has earned immense respect from his followers in this campaign. What you see is what you get: no focus groups, no poll tested lines, no consultant driven positions. His voters are solid, like an immovable object. Wagner is a “tell it like it is” man of great legislative and intellectual substance. He calls it like he sees it.
The above gets him 20 percent. He has little in the way of campaign infrastructure, and he’s going to get buried by an avalanche of Gillespie’s ads in the closing weeks of the campaign.
Corey Stewart 12:1
If Corey were running against Jefferson Davis for President of the Confederacy in 1860, I’d have him as the odds on favorite. According to the CNU survey, The Prince William Chairman is underwater in his favorable vs. unfavorable ratings, and he trails Gillespie big in NOVA.
Outgunned financially, he has decided to make the preservation of Confederate statues the centerpiece of his campaign. While hailing from the North, I like the Confederate statues, and I appreciate and respect Virginia’s history – good or bad. History is history.
Truth be told, though, I’d rather have the $1,300 tax reduction than the statues.
Stewart never caught fire, the Trump voters he hoped to capture have scattered, and his long-shot gubernatorial bid is fading. He’ll need to catch lightening in a bottle with an issue that people care about to get back in the race.
Denver Riggleman – Scratched
Democratic Governor – Primary
Tom Perriello – 4:5
Ralph Northam 6:5
Former Fifth District Congressman Tom Perriello is now the favorite to win the Virginia Democratic nomination for governor on June 13. He has picked up the endorsement of progressive icon Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) plus many of his pals from the Obama administration and former Obama campaigns.
But the real story is The CNU poll, which spells disaster for Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam. After holding a high profile statewide office for four years, winning two statewide elections in 2013, and assuming to be chief executive heir apparent, Northam finds himself in a dogfight he never fathomed.
The CNU survey has both candidates tied at 26 percent of the vote with another 45 percent undecided. Do you really think a majority of that 45 percent is going to break for Northam?
No. You know why? His campaign is not credible.
Dr. Northam is a centrist candidate running to the far left, afraid of alienating the progressive wing of his Party, in a Democratic climate of protests, anti-Trump town hall meetings and pink hat rallies. Here’s the rub: if you are going to vote for the most liberal candidate in the race, you might as well vote for the real thing. That’s Perriello. Perriello is fearless. Northam is tentative.
Bottom line: The Northam campaign doesn’t know how to deal with Perriello.
BLUE VIRGINIA RUNS THE NORTHAM CAMPAIGN?
The Northam campaign is petrified of Virginia’s progressive blog Blue Virginia. In fact, the case can be made that Blue Virginia’s founder and president, Lowell Feld, defacto runs the Northam campaign. They are scared of what Lowell might write about them so they toe his line.
Lowell runs the show.
The first sign of Northam campaign feebleness was the Atlantic Coast pipeline. The Virginia Chamber of Commerce did a survey last year showing the pipeline favored by a whopping 2:1 margin in Virginia, including by the popular outgoing Governor Terry McAuliffe. The entire Hampton Roads 33 strong state legislative caucus supports the ACP, an unprecedented achievement.
Perriello came out against it, rallying his environment-first base, at the expense of job creation for Virginia’s craftsmen and women. What an opportunity for Northam to contrast his McAuliffe jobs first message with Perriello’s extremist no pipelines position. Instead they punted, and said the governor does not make that decision and refused to take a position. Really, Ralph?
To win this race, Northam needs a campaign shake-up. I’d rip Clark Mercer from the now lame duck LG’s office and put him in charge. Then, I would elevate veteran communications director David Turner and get out of their way. They are both tough, battle tested, and savvy.
Short of that, or something dramatic, Perriello is going to win the Democratic nomination for Governor. A last minute endorsement and campaign appearance from former President Obama turns it into a Perriello landslide.