When Virginia Republicans nominated Corey Stewart, President Trump’s kind of candidate (race-baiting, pro-Confederate statues, prone to incendiary language), they effectively wrote off the Senate race against incumbent Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.). Kaine, a former governor as well, was always going to be tough to beat. But Stewart is performing so horribly that his presence at the top of the ticket might doom a bunch of House Republicans.
The latest poll for the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at Virginia Commonwealth University found Kaine leading Stewart 49 percent to 26 percent among likely voters. Even among Republicans, about a third aren’t yet ready to say they are voting for Stewart. Kaine has a 35-point lead among women and leads by a margin of 74 percent to 7 percent among nonwhites. In Northern Virginia (where incumbent Republican Barbara Comstock is at risk), Kaine leads overwhelmingly (67 percent to 19 percent). Indeed, Kaine leads even among groups generally supportive of Trump (e.g. men, whites, those with a high school diploma or less) although by smaller amounts than he does with women, nonwhites and college-educated voters. Kaine also leads in every age group.
When it comes to which party they want to control Congress, Democrats lead 51 percent to 32 percent statewide. However, in Northern Virginia, that margin is 66 percent to 23 percent. The Democratic blog Blue Virginia pointed out that this is “horrendous” news for Comstock. Nevertheless:
It’s also not good news for Rep. Scott Taylor (R-VA02), as voters in Tidewater want Democratic control of Congress by a nearly 2:1 margin (47%-26%). It’s also not superb news for VA-05 Republican nominee Denver Riggleman, as voters in South Central Virginia narrowly prefer a Democratic Congress. Finally, and most surprisingly, according to this poll– and I’m not sure I buy this one — voters in heavily “red” southwestern Virginia (what the poll calls “West”) prefer Democratic control of Congress by a 50%-40% margin. If true, these numbers wouldn’t bode well for Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-VA09) and possibly for VA06 Republican nominee Ben Cline.
Democrats might want to adjust their campaign signage and ads to simply say “Democrat for Congress.” (A special prosecutor is investigating claims of possible election fraud by some of Taylor’s aides.)
When it comes to immigration, a large plurality of Virginia voters — 48 percent (up 9 points from 2017) — want only violent criminals to be deported; in Northern Virginia, that percentage is 60 percent. Statewide, only 27 percent want all undocumented immigrants deported and only 18 percent want those convicted of any crime deported.
In short, thanks to Trump and Stewart, Virginia looks more like Maryland politically speaking than at any point in recent memory. So maybe Republicans in Virginia would be wise to take a look over the Potomac. There they will see Gov. Larry Hogan with a double-digit lead. Hogan is a moderate Republican who disagrees with Trump on a slew of issues — from immigration to climate change. At some point, Virginia Republicans will get tired of losing and start running candidates who reflect the state’s more diverse, moderate electorate.
One final interesting note: Only 16 percent of voters want the state legislature to keep drawing congressional district lines. More popular were a panel of local and state experts (24 percent), a citizens’ commission (20 percent) and a bipartisan commission (18 percent). In 2019, Virginia elects its representatives to the House of Delegates and state Senate (both narrowly held by Republicans). Savvy candidates might want to run on a stop-gerrymandering platform (something Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam is likely to sign). Ending gerrymandering would be one significant blow against polarization and in favor of voting. Where there are competitive races, people will show up to vote.