New poll shows Democrats with early advantage in Va. governor race

RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) — If the election were held today, Republican front-runner Ed Gillespie would have a tough time beating either Democrat in the race for governor of Virginia. That’s the finding of a new Washington Post-Schar School poll of registered voters out Monday.

The poll put Gillespie — who’s leading among the GOP — up against both Democrats. When polled with Ralph Northam, Gillespie brought in 38 percent to Northam’s 49 percent. When polled with Tom Perriello, Gillespie brought in 37 percent to Perriello’s 50 percent.

To see the full details of the poll, click here.

Virginia voter Brian McMahon says he was surprised to see the results of the poll.

“[Gillespie’s] a very sophisticated and experienced politician with a big name and big reputation,” said McMahon.

He says he thinks what’s happening on a national level could be affecting Gillespie’s chances. He called it a possible “over-correction of the lack of Trump enthusiasm.”

“I think his party affiliation in this particular election could cost him somewhat,” McMahon said.

As for the Democratic candidates, McMahon isn’t completely sold yet on either one.

“I’m concerned that neither candidate has what I’m looking for yet in the way of what I call sizzle, like a wow factor.”

Political analyst Richard Meagher says Trump could be having a trickle-down effect into Virginia.

“A lot of people are looking at this poll suggesting that what’s really dragging down the Republican — Gillespie or whoever — is that the top Republican in the country, Donald Trump, is just hugely unpopular,” said Meagher.

Gillespie is running against Corey Stewart and Frank Wagner for the Republican party’s nomination. Meagher says the Republican who wins will have to make a decision: Does he reject Trump and the national political scene, does he embrace him or does he find a middle ground?

Despite the Washington Post-Schar School poll showing both Democrats leading by double digits, Meagher says there’s still a race to be seen.

“It’s not like the race is over with,” he said.

Meagher says candidates will need to focus on telling the campaign story they want to tell, without getting bogged down by national politics.

Meagher points out the poll is of registered voters — not necessarily likely voters. Because of that, it’s still unclear who we will actually see turn up to cast a ballot.

“Because we have this uncertainty about who’s going to vote, both in the primary and in the fall, we have to take these polls with a grain of salt.”

The Republican Party of Virginia is dismissing the poll. Chairman John Whitbeck issued this statement Monday afternoon:

Today’s Washington Post poll is so far off base it falls squarely into the category of fake news. Polling in the Commonwealth is notoriously bad, but this Post poll stands out for its level of inaccuracy. The Post’s survey shows a dubious 10-point advantage for Democrats over Republicans in terms of party ID.

Such a shift would be historic and likely unprecedented. In 2013, Democrats had a 5-point party ID advantage in Terry McAuliffe’s narrow win, while in 2009, Republicans held a 4-point advantage in Bob McDonnell’s landslide victory. These results simply don’t reflect the reality of what a Virginia gubernatorial electorate will look like.

If this same electorate had turned out to vote in November 2016, admittedly a far more Democratic-leaning electorate than an off-year contest for governor, Clinton would have won 49-to-39, double her real margin in the Commonwealth. If this poll isn’t the product of liberal bias, it’s the product of incompetence. Neither is acceptable.

Anyone who has any experience with a Virginia off-year election knows such an electorate is a Democrat fever dream, not reality. Newspaper circulations are shrinking for a reason – and terrible polls like this just add more fuel to the fire.”

The primary election is June 13. The election is November 7.