New Polls Show Ralph Northam Leads Virginia Gubernatorial Race But Ed Gillespie Within Striking Distance

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam and GOP gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie

Two new polls show Democrat Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam has a slight lead in the Virginia gubernatorial race, but Republican Ed Gillespie is within striking distance in the election that is now less than a month away.

A new Emerson College Poll, conducted between October 5 and October 7,  shows that  Democrat Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam leads Republican Ed Gillespie in the 2017 general election race for governor of Virginia by five points, 49 percent to 44 percent, which is within the poll’s 5.5 percent margin of error.

A second recent poll, conducted by the Wason Center at Christopher Newport University between October 2 and October 6, shows Northam leading Gillespie by seven points, which is beyond the poll’s 4.3 percent margin of error:

With barely a month to go before Virginians choose their next governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general, all three Democratic candidates maintain statistically significant leads over their Republican rivals, according to a Wason Center survey of likely voters. At the top of the ticket, current Democratic Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam leads former Republican National Committee Chair Ed Gillespie, 49% to 42%, with Libertarian Cliff Hyra taking 3% of the vote and another 6% still undecided.

The Emerson College Poll and the Wason Center at Christopher Newport Univeristy Poll are the most recent of the five polls included in the Real Clear Politics average of polls, which shows Northam with a 6.8 percent lead.

“Having polled in Virginia for fifteen years there are two phenomena that I have come to learn exist in our polling in Virginia,” Dr. Quentin Kidd, director of the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University tells Breitbart News.

“The first is the phenomenon of the ‘Shy Republican.’ There’s a certain small percentage of Republican voters who don’t want to tell you who they are going to vote for,” he says.

“They will tell you are undecided and don’t have a party affiliation. Over the years we’ve tried a number of ways to get them to tell us who they think they will vote for. We’ve been slowly able to chip away at that. I think, because of the ‘Shy Republican,’  Gillespie’s numbers are probably under reported by a little bit –maybe one percent or two percent,” Kidd notes.

“The second is the phenomenon that Virginia Republicans tend to come home late. We see them in late polls,” he adds.

“All of that to say I think at the end of the day the numbers are going to be slightly closer than we are seeing them now [in our most recent poll]. Northam has a structural lead of maybe two to three points. The Gillespie campaign has to find a way to break out of that, and if they can’t they’re really stuck,” Kidd concludes.

Kidd noted that “in some ways” there are parallels between the Northam-Gillespie Virginia gubernatorial campaign this year and the McAuliffe-Cuccinelli campaign of 2013, in which McAuliffe, the Democrat, narrowly defeated Cuccinelli, the Republican.

“Middle of the road Republicans were soft on Cuccinelli in 2013. Middle of the road republicans might be soft on Gillespie in 2017 due to the Trump phenomenon. But McAuliffe and Northam are totally different personalities,” Kidd adds.

The Emerson College Poll press release noted that “President Trump endorsed Gillespie on Twitter on Thursday night.”

The press release added this analysis:

Trump has a 42% favorable opinion and 53% unfavorable opinion in Virginia. The current Democratic Governor of Virginia, Terry McAuliffe, is also underwater with regards to favorability, with 39% viewing McAuliffe favorably compared to 41% who view him unfavorably, while 15% have no opinion of the outgoing Governor.

Northam and Gillespie hold similar approval numbers – Northam comes in at 42% favorable/39% unfavorable, while Gillespie scores a 43% favorable/42% unfavorable rating.

These numbers are similar to the 2013 race between McAuliffe and Ken Cuccinelli where both candidates boosted high unfavorable ratings and the focus was to maximize turnout in the Northern part of the Commonwealth for McAuliffe and along the western region for Cuccinelli.

The Wason Center Christopher Newport University Poll suggests that the Gillespie campaign is resonating when it focuses on illegal immigration, less so when it focuses on crime:

In recent weeks the Gillespie campaign has opened up a line of attack against Northam centered on gangs, crime, and illegal immigrants. Gillespie voters appear to
be no more concerned than Northam voters about crime generally or gang-related crime specifically, with very strong majorities of both indicating that crime and gangrelated crime are not problems where they live.

However, the two candidates’ voters diverge sharply on whether illegal immigration is a problem, with a third (33%) of Gillespie voters agreeing or strongly agreeing that illegal immigration is a problem where they live and only 6% of Northam voters saying the same.

The two candidates face off in a debate on Monday evening.


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