Things seem bleak for the Republican ticket.
The current trajectory of the race shows election night could be historic for Democrats. The last five public polls show the GOP nominee Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli trailing by an average of almost 10 points. With only 11 days left, that is not a lot of time and a lot of ground to make up.
(Cuccinelli talks to a supporter at lunch Thursday in Bristol, VA- photo from the Bristol Herald Courier FB page)
But there are factions of the Republican party, die hards no doubt, that are not ready to coronate Governor Terry McAuliffe quite yet. They point to Cuccinelli's strong record as a closer and an unsettled electorate generally dissatisfied with both candidates who may choose just to stay home on election day.
One barometer of the realistic chances of Cuccinelli's potential to pull an upset may come in the form of third party support. Cuccinelli has had some help in that area, but trails McAuliffe overall. However- the powerful anti-tax PAC "Ending Spending" is taking a second look at Cuccinelli's chances.
Ending Spending commissioned a poll of their own through the questionable GOP firm Wenzel Strategies that shows Cuccinelli within the margin of error. Poll aside- the real story is the results have Ending Spending considering an investment in Cuccinelli heading into the campaign's final days.
But Ending Spending's efforts may be a small boost against a swarm of momentum for the McAuliffe side. In addition to a now four day tour of Virginia by the popular former president Bill Clinton, McAuliffe will also get a $1 million ad campaign gift from the anti-gun mayor of New York City Michael Bloomberg.
Cuccinelli's strategy however has shifted from casting a wide net to targeting a very specific vote. The Washington Post's Ben Pershing outlined in great detail how the Attorney General is now working to fire up his rabid supporters who they are counting on to vote, regardless how low voter turnout ends up being.
The strategy requires the Cuccinelli team to follow a very narrow path to victory that still requires a bit of a boost to get them there. They are hoping the problems plaguing the Federal Government's rollout of the Affordable Care Act will be the hook to inspire their beleaguered supporters.
"The latest developments put Terry McAuliffe, who has avoided public events for five straight days, in a tight spot," wrote Cuccinelli spokesman Richard Cullen in a pre-debate memo. "The former DNC Chairman was an ardent supporter of the law and even pushed for a more extreme version that included the public option."
Conservative radio talk show host John Fredericks, who has had his share of criticism of Cuccinelli, seemed to echo the opportunity the Republican has if he can make a last ditch effort to tie McAuliffe to the Obamacare hiccups, the way the Democrats tied Cuccinelli to the shutdown.
Pointing to a recent Quinnipiac poll Fredericks believes Cuccinelli needs to fire up his base and health care is the way to make that happen. He thinks there is opportunity to sway people who have been leaning toward the third option, Robert Sarvis the Libertarian.
"Cuccinelli has to bring home Sarvis wayward voters and get his base to buy in at the final hour," wrote Fredericks in his morning e-mail blast to listeners. "The Republican has squandered opportunities and often been his own worst enemy but he is still alive going into the final 12 days. Cuccinelli is still a decided underdog, but he has a shot to win this race. That alone is reason for his camp to find new life today."
That subtle sign of new life however can be helpful to McAuliffe as well. When a lead like the Democrat's opens up the way this has in the final days of a campaign there is a risk of voter fatigue. The leading team is always worried their side will assume the race is over and not take the time to vote. This is especially of concern when there is a lack of enthusiasm for the race in general.
McAuliffe's team was pushing this graphic today on social media warning that no matter what you hear the race is still close. "Incredibly close" in fact.
If a turn around is in fact in the offing it would have to begin in earnest tonight. Cuccinelli and McAuliffe will meet in the final debate of the 2013 campaign. The debate will only be broadcast in roughly half of the state as both the Richmond and Hampton Roads media markets chose not to pick up WDBJ in Roanoke's telecast.
WDBJ will stream the event online. We'll post their stream here on Decision Virginia. I'll have a complete recap of the event tonight on NBC12 News at 11.