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CNU Poll: Incumbent Scott Taylor posts lead over Democrat in Va.’s 2nd Congressional District

Rep. Scott Taylor is the Republican incumbent in Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District, seeking reelection to a second term. A poll shows him leading his challenger. (Vicki Cronis-Nohe/For The Washington Post)

Rep. Scott Taylor (R-Va.) leads Democratic challenger Elaine Luria 50 percent to 43 percent in Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District, according to a new poll released Monday by Christopher Newport University’s Wason Center for Public Policy.

Taylor has a seven-point lead among likely voters, suggesting that voters are not troubled by his involvement in a scandal in which his campaign staffers submitted fraudulent signatures in a failed effort to get another candidate onto the ballot.

The poll had a margin of error of about four percentage points.

Republican congressman helped a rival collect signatures to get on the ballot. Some of those signatures were fake

While 72 percent of voters in the Virginia Beach and Hampton Roads-area district said they were familiar with the petition scandal, in which Taylor’s staff apparently was trying to split the Democratic vote by adding a third candidate to the ballot, most said the situation had no impact on their vote.

Independent voters will be an important factor in the race, and the poll found that 68 percent of them said the scandal made no difference to them. Independent voters who said they are “committed” to voting on Nov. 6 favored Taylor over Luria by eight percentage points, 50 percent to 42 percent.

Luria, a first-time candidate running against a popular incumbent, has been hoping that Taylor would be tainted by the state’s ongoing criminal investigation into his campaign staff. The district leans Republican, but it went for Donald Trump by only a three-point margin in 2016, and Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam won there by four points last year.

Taylor is a former Navy SEAL in a district where voters are heavily military, and Luria is a retired Navy commander. In the Wason poll, military voters favored Taylor by a 22-point margin.

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At a time when female candidates are having strong success nationwide and in other parts of Virginia, Luria’s edge among women in the district was a relatively modest 5 percent in the CNU poll. The poll also found Democratic voters to be 10 percent more likely to vote than Republicans.

“If Democratic turnout reaches its 2017 level, this race could narrow or even flip unexpectedly to Luria,” Rachel Bitecofer, assistant director of the Wason Center, said in a news release. “Much depends on whether Democratic voters in this district maintain their enthusiasm through Election Day.”

Although President Trump is broadly unpopular in Virginia — a dynamic that helped drive huge turnout among Democratic voters in last year’s statewide races — that factor is not as strong in the 2nd District, according to the poll. It found that 46 percent of voters there approved of Trump’s performance and 51 percent disapproved; Trump has tended to score below 40 percent approval in Virginia as a whole.

The Wason Center poll also asked 2nd District likely voters about the U.S. Senate race and found incumbent Tim Kaine (D) to be leading Republican challenger Corey Stewart by five points, 47 percent to 42 percent. Five percent of likely voters said they were undecided.

The survey was based on interviews with 798 registered voters in Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District who had voted in at least two of the last four elections or were new voters to Virginia in 2017. The calls were conducted from Oct. 3 to Oct. 12; 256 of the calls were on landlines and 542 on cellphones.