The latest SUSA poll in the governor’s race is bad, bad news for Democrats. It’s the realization of my fear about how we Democrats—by way of Terry McAuliffe—could screw up a sure thing.
By way of background, I wrote in December of 2007 that urban Democrats’ power is in danger of outstripping their pragmatism:
As wealthy, urban districts and their representatives gain influence, they’ll come to play a disproportionate role in the selection and election of our statewide candidates. We’ll witness this very battle take place between now and 2009, when Sen. Creigh Deeds and Del. Brian Moran face off for the Democratic nomination for governor. I believe that Sen. Deeds is eminently more electable, by virtue of his being much closer to the center than Del. Moran. But it’s that very trait that may prevent him from being nominated, if the center of Democratic power in Virginia lies as far north as I suspect that it does.
When word of McAullife’s candidacy emerged, I explained that McAuliffe is precisely the sort of candidate that I fear. He can get nominated, but he can’t get elected.
That’s what we see in this Survey USA poll. Among 409 likely primary voters (a too-small sample size, admittedly), McAuliffe has 38% to Deeds’ and Moran’s 22%, with just 18% undecided. That’s a huge split. But among 1,396 likely voters of both parties, McAuliffe is seven points behind Republican Bob McDonnell. Moran is twelve points behind. And Deeds is in the best shape, with a five point deficit. The two percentage difference between Deeds and McAuliffe isn’t hair-splitting—McAuliffe has huge negative ratings, twice those of Moran and two and a half times those of Deeds. A third of the electorate simply doesn’t like Terry McAuliffe, and I can speak from experience that it ain’t entirely Republicans. McAuliffe will have a hell of a time making up that seven-point gap.
The pisser is that it’s Bob McDonnell. The guy is rushing to the left faster than Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling cuddled up to Tim Kaine in 2006. He’s a far-right Republican who has suddenly started pretending to be a centrist, with fractured support from a state party that is on the verge of collapse, and who is a member of a national party whose name is mud right now. This should be a cakewalk. McDonnell has enjoyed the exposure that comes of being attorney general, so it’s natural that he’d have higher name recognition and higher favorables at this point. That doesn’t worry me.
What worries me is that Virginia Democrats are preparing to nominate a candidate who much of the electorate dislikes intensely and who appears to have the smallest chance of winning the general election of all of the Democrats. We’re employing the same logic as Republicans who think Sarah Palin should run for president. I’m sure it’s awfully satisfying to support somebody you like so much. But at what cost?