Meanwhile, the Quinnipiac poll shows pro-Confederate, racially incendiary Corey Stewart is getting wiped out in his Senate race. “With a lead among women topping 2-1, Virginia U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, the Democratic incumbent, has an overall lead of 54 – 36 percent over Republican challenger Corey Stewart, chair of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors, according to a Quinnipiac University Poll released today. ”
The real damage from Stewart’s likely wipeout will be to Republican candidates for the U.S. House.
The root of the problem for all Republicans on the ballot is President Trump’s and his party’s standings in the state. “Only 32 percent of Virginia voters have a favorable opinion of the Republican Party, while 59 percent have an unfavorable opinion,” Quinnipiac’s pollsters found. While approval for Northam runs strong (51/25), Trump is badly underwater with only 37 percent approving of his performance and 58 percent disapproving. In a stunning result, the poll shows, “Virginia voters say 53 – 39 percent, including 51 – 36 percent among independent voters, they would like to see the Democratic Party win control of the U.S. House of Representatives this fall. By a similar 53 – 41 percent, including 52 – 39 percent among independent voters, Virginia voters would like to see the Democratic Party win control of the U.S. Senate.” That Democratic preference should scare the daylights out of other Republican congressional candidates on the ballot.
There are three seats besides the 10th held by Republicans that are in the Lean Republican column according to the Cook Political Reports — the 2nd, 5th and 7th.
In the 2nd District, Cook notes, “This suburban district fell to Democrats in the 2008 wave, then back to Republicans in 2010 — so it could be susceptible to a Democratic wave.” Trump won this district by only 3 points (48-45).
The 5th District looked promising for Democrats. Trump won that district by only 6 points. The seat is open thanks to Rep. Thomas Garrett’s personal scandals and decision not to run for reelection. However, Democrats nominated Leslie Cockburn, whose authorship of a 1991 book propagating anti-Israel conspiracy theories has sparked accusations of anti-Semitism. Washington Jewish Week reported: “On May 28, Cockburn met with Jewish community members to clear the air. Forty people gathered at the home of Rabbi Daniel Alexander, rabbi emeritus of Congregation Beth Israel in Charlottesville, which is within the district. Russ Linden, a Beth Israel member who attended, said there was a genuine exchange of views.” Even if the small Jewish community in the district accepts her air-clearing, pro-Israel Christians could be motivated to get out to vote against her in strong numbers. If the Democrats lose this seat, the blame will land on party convention attendees who selected a highly problematic candidate.
The 7th District might be the most interesting of all. Uber-conservative Rep. David Brat (R-Va.), who beat then-Majority Leader Eric Cantor in the 2014 primary, is a card-carrying member of the Freedom Caucus and easily characterized as an extremist. Democrats nominated a woman (as they did in the 2nd, 5th and 10th), Abigail Spanberger, a former CIA operative. That district went for Trump by 6 points in 2016. One senses a skilled, moderate Democrat with strong national security credentials could take Brat out.
A few points deserve emphasis.
First, Virginia can no longer be called a purple state; with the growth of affluent suburbs in Northern Virginia, the state is increasingly safe for Democrats. There is perhaps no state — other than California in the wake of Gov. Pete Wilson who managed to poison the well for the GOP with Hispanics — that has swung so far in the direction of Democrats, in large part due to the white grievance mentality of Republicans. Should a batch of House seats go Democratic in Virginia, it would represent the final collapse of the state’s Republican Party.
Second, in some respects the 10th District is the model suburban district undergoing a huge shift away from the GOP. Comstock was always more conservative than ordinary voters in her district (which previously sent very moderate Rep. Frank Wolf to the House); now that gap is becoming a chasm. Voters in a district that is racial diversifying and home to large percentages of college educated voters and of government workers want nothing to do with a know-nothing, racist, protectionist party. Comstock has tried to walk a fine line, voting against Obamacare repeal but for the tax bill (which took out the individual mandate). However, her top rating with the National Rifle Association and loyalty to the speaker of the house (e.g., not joining the discharge petition to bring up a vote on “dreamers”) may now be significant liabilities.
If Comstock doesn’t lose, it will be evidence the blue wave has dissipated. On the other hand, if the margin in the 10th District is significant and if one or more of these other House seats go to the Democrats, it will be a long, bloody election night for the GOP.
Third, the answer for Republicans in states such as Virginia is not to go “Trump-lite,” as Ed Gillespie did in his loss to Northam, or “Trump-plus,” as Stewart is trying. They would do better to look to their neighbor, Maryland, where moderate, effective Republican Larry Hogan is among the most popular governors in the country. Unless and until Republicans get serious about governing, drop their know-nothingism (on everything from trade to climate change) and embrace the American ethos of tolerance, they are going to find themselves locked out of more states than just Virginia.