Quinnipiac’s final poll of the Virginia Governor’s race finds Democrat Terry McAulliffe with a six point, 46-40, lead over Republican Ken Cuccinelli. Libertarian Robert Sarvis garners 8%. The poll noted, however, that “Cuccinelli wins the enthusiasm race among Virginia likely voters.” With the expected low turnout in Tuesday’s election, this could be a critical factor in deciding the outcome.
According to Quinnipiac, 54% of Cuccinelli voters support him because they “strongly favor” him. Just 19% of Cuccinelli voters base their support on opposition to McAuliffe. The Democrat’s voters, however, are not as enthusiastic about their candidate. Just 39% of McAuliffe voters “strongly favor” him. An almost equal number, 32%, say their support for McAuliffe is based on opposition to Cuccinelli.
Those numbers may be interesting data-points in a poll, but when the time comes to actually vote, they can be decisive. Voters tend to vote “for” someone rather than “against” someone. Voting observers expect turnout in Virginia tomorrow to be 35-40%. In low turnout elections like that, voter enthusiasm is a critical factor.
Every public poll has shown McAuliffe with a steady lead. His lead, however, isn’t based on support for him, but opposition to his opponent. Democrats recognize this, and it led to McAuliffe’s risky political decision to campaign with President Obama on Sunday. On Monday, McAuliffe is campaigning with Vice-President Joe Biden.
The challenge for McAuliffe, though, is that Obama and Biden are not the draws they used to be. McAuliffe certainly has the edge on Tuesday, but I wouldn’t bet the farm on it.