Op-Ed: A midterm elections threat assessment — high and getting higher
The stakes are high. A new poll from the University of Virginia indicates that Republican gubernatorial candidates are not winning the election by a landslide, but that the race is likely within the margin of error. In particular, two of the candidates are running neck-and-neck: Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R-Virginia) and Senate Majority Leader R. Creigh Deeds (D-Maryland). The poll says that Cuccinelli leads by a margin of 46%-37%, with a margin of error of +/-2.9%.
But there are a few reasons why the election could be close, including the low level of voter turnout in Virginia.
Polls are wrong
There’s no denying that polling is often inaccurate, and the University of Virginia poll cited above is no exception. Most polling samples are small, and small polls can be very volatile. The poll was conducted in mid-July, during a heat wave which was unusual in its severity.
The poll shows that there are more undecideds in Virginia than there are voters for Cuccinelli or Deeds, and the state was split down the middle in gubernatorial elections in November, but voters have been increasing their participation in midterm votes in recent years.
Virginia has been a swing state in presidential elections for the last two decades. However, since 2000, it has been a more reliably red state. In 2000, Democratic nominee Al Gore carried Virginia by 8.8% while George W. Bush won by 11.4%. That’s a statistical dead heat, and Virginia is more than twice as big as Washington.
However, the 2008 election brought a significant swing to the Democrats. Democrat John Kerry ran almost three times as well in Virginia against conservative John McCain as he did in Washington.
The poll also questioned the partisanship of voters for the candidates, and found that Republican voters were far more likely to be Republicans than Democrats were to be Democrats. The Democratic Party is a liberal party and its vote share is