When I decided to go out on a limb and make a prediction for the election results in 2012 the race was tight and the outcome not apparent.
Especially in Virginia.
Such is not the case in 2013.
(Team McAuliffe is confident heading into Election day/Photo from his FB page)
While the race for Governor of Virginia was expected to be a slugfest that was close right until the end, things shifted in a pretty dramatic way in late August. There have been polls that have shown the margin to be as high as 15 points and as low as 4 points, but truly Terry McAuliffe (D) has held a stable 6-8 point lead since late summer and there is nothing to indicate the results won't be any different Tuesday night when the polls close.
This is how I think the returns will come in. I emphasize this is not necessarily my personal preference, it has nothing to do with how the campaigns were run or the candidate's stances on specific issues. This is simply an analysis of public polling and my assessment of the public's mood in general.
Governor: Terry McAuliffe 51% Ken Cuccinelli 43% Robert Sarvis 6%
The most unpredictable variable in any off year election is turnout and low turnout is the only key to a Cuccinelli victory. In my estimation the Democrats have been concerned about low turnout since the day after their losing effort in 2009 and have since had a hellbent obsession with getting their voters to the polls.
Instead of distancing themselves from the Obama machine in 2009, the McAuliffe campaign has adopted it wholesale and added their own twist in certain areas. They have micro-targeted voters they have been monitoring since early 2008 down to such a rigid science that they are aware of not only the voting households that support their candidate, but the people within those households who they know are with them. They have then gone about on a historic GOTV effort that will see them contacting more voters in the last weekend of the vote than the Deeds campaign did in the ENTIRE 2009 campaign.
In just four days the McAuliffe team will either knock on the door or make a phone call to some 600 thousand Virginia voters. And not only are these voters, they are voters they are sure are inclined to vote for their candidate.
While I believe the McAuliffe model is solid and that they have the financial resources to pull it off, I don't believe it will be enough to over perform polling. While McAuliffe has steadily improved his favorability numbers, the last Quinnipiac Poll released Monday morning shows he still has a negative favorability rating of -3. Even if you contact all those voters, it will be tough to motivate people who just like the other guy a little less than your guy to get out to vote on Tuesday.
We also have the unpredictable element of a third party candidate. Robert Sarvis's polling has been steady and strong, but he has virtually no get out the vote effort. A campaign official within one of two major party operations believes the lowest Sarvis could pull is 5%. I agree. However I think he falls short of the magic 10% threshold and I don't think when the dust settles that his candidacy will have had an impact on the result between McAuliffe and Cuccinelli.
I believe the Sarvis voter stays home if he were not in the race.
That being said, a 6% showing in a race where the major party candidates will have spent close to $60 million and both have tremendous name ID will be a monumental and historic finish.
Lt. Governor: Ralph Northam 53% E.W. Jackson 43% (4% won't vote)
This is far and away the easiest race to predict. Bishop E.W. Jackson could not escape the spectre of his previous controversial statements and despite his best effort to clarify his record he did not have the resources or the time to overcome the damage.
The LG race might best be described in one ad done by the Northam team that has been airing pretty consistently in many markets. It pulls a section from Jackson's book where he describes birth defects as a punishment for sin. It features a mom with a child with a birth defect who emotionally calls Jackson's statement offensive. It is a devastating ad- and while it may not tell the whole story of Jackson's position, he never even approached the resources necessary to rebut that claim and the many others lodged against him.
This race will be the first to be called Tuesday night.
Attorney General: Mark Herring 50% Mark Obenshain 48% (2% won't vote)
There is no question this will be the race of the night and one that might take some time to call.
I have pegged the margin of victory in the Governor's race that is insurmountable for the Republican Mark Obenshain to overcome at 7%. I think it is possible for him to still lose if McAuliffe's margin of victory is smaller than that, I believe it is impossible for him to win if it is more than that number. I believe McAuliffe will win by 8 points and as a result will take Herring with him.
Herring was wise to stick close to the McAuliffe train and tie Obenshain to Cuccinelli as much as possible. He will benefit from the enormous democrat turnout effort and it won't hurt that the LG race will be a landslide.
An Obenshain victory is much more likely than a Cuccinelli victory, but think of the odds like this: If this election were the Powerball lottery, Obenshain would need to correctly pick all 5 white powerballs correctly, but might sneak in if the red powerball doesn't come up right. Cuccinelli needs all 5 white powerballs and the red ball to win.
It should be a good night to be a Democrat.
See if I am right.. tune in to NBC12's special election night coverage. Wall to wall from 7-11pm! on air and on line.