Robert Sarvis didn’t cost Ken Cuccinelli the Virginia governor’s race

November 7, 2013

In the wake of state Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli's narrow loss to Gov.-elect Terry McAuliffe, many Republicans laid the blame for the defeat at the feet of Libertarian nominee Robert Sarvis, who took 6.5 percent of the vote. If only Sarvis hadn't been in the race, a majority of his 145,560 votes would have gone to Cuccinelli and given the Republican just enough votes to overcome McAuliffe, the thinking goes. (Cuccinelli lost to McAuliffe by roughly 55,000 votes.)

But, that thinking is wrong. Check out this chart, built from the Virginia exit poll, that shows the three-way vote split and how it would have looked if the Sarvis voters had been dispersed among the two main candidates.

Cuccinelli would have gone from 45 percent to 46 percent. McAuliffe would have stayed at 48 percent -- and won.

Perhaps the most interesting thing is that the vast majority of Sarvis supporters said that if he were not in the race they simply wouldn't have voted. That's evidence of the growing strain of libertarianism in the country and proof that while libertarians often throw in their political lot with Republicans, the two remain decidedly distinct groups.

For more on Sarvis, check out this great profile of him by Post TV's "The Fold":

Chris Cillizza writes “The Fix,” a politics blog for the Washington Post. He also covers the White House.
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Chris Cillizza · November 7, 2013