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Virginia Not Exactly Looking Like A Battleground State

Virginia Flag Map

In 2008, President Obama won in part thanks to the fact that he was able to win in states that had been traditionally been going Republican for quite some time. Among the most important of those states was Virginia where, despite the fact that it only has thirteen Electoral Votes at stake, a win is important in no small part because it shows an ability on the part of a candidate to succeed among the type of predominantly white, college educated, suburban voters that are also important in states such as Ohio and, to a large degree, a key part of the Republican base. Prior to Obama’s win, Republicans had won the Old Dominion in every Presidential election since 1968 and Republicans had come to dominate politics at the state level with consistent wins in races for Governor, Lt Governor, and Attorney General as well as winning control of the state legislature. Since that win, and Obama’s follow-up win in the state during his 2012 bid for re-election, Democrats have had more success in regaining some of their former dominance in state politics, most especially in 2013 when they swept the elections for all three statewide elected offices, the first time either party had done that in some time.

Now, according to a new CBS News Battleground Poll, Hillary Clinton has a substantial enough lead in the state that it’s hard to call the state a battleground:

The battleground state of Virginia looks a little less like a battleground today, as Hillary Clinton has opened up a lead there of 49 percent to 37 percent, echoing some of the movement seen in national polls this week.

Clinton has nearly-unanimous Democratic backing at the moment while Trump isn’t doing as well with his fellow Republicans: she has 95 percent of the state’s Democrats compared to 79 percent of GOP-ers for Trump. In today’s highly partisan electorate, that amounts to a dramatic difference. There isn’t a wholesale move of Republicans to Clinton – just 6 percent – but others have drifted into being unsure, or voting third-party, and in what may become a turnout factor down the road, Republicans report lower motivation to vote than before. (However, that also suggests there could be room for Trump to rebound, if some of his partisans return.)

The “Commander-in-Chief” test looms large here, as it has become the top decision-making criteria for voters now. Clinton leads on it: fifty-seven percent say she is prepared while 36 percent say so of Trump. That commander-in-chief measure has become so important that Clinton can lead this race despite performing poorly on many other criteria: thirty-three percent believe she “tells the truth”; fewer than half believe she’ll “look out for people like you” despite putting an emphasis on that topic at the Democratic convention, and only 34 percent believe she can bring change to Washington.

Yet with the exception of bringing change – which 67 percent believe Trump can do – Trump does not perform especially well on those measures either, which only underlines how the election has, for many voters, become a relative comparison between the two candidates. About three in ten voters in all these battleground states say they dislike both choices, but are picking one anyway.

Prior to the conventions, polls from Fox News and NBC News had shown Clinton leading in the Old Dominion by five points and seven points respectively, but it’s worth noting that there has not been an abundance of polling in the state until now so it’s hard to tell what the trend may have been before this. In any case, the new poll gives Clinton a seven point lead in a head-to-head matchup with Trump and a 6.8 point lead in a four-way race with Gary Johnson and Jill Stein in the respective RealClearPolitics averages. The numbers are similar in the Pollster average for a head-to-head matchup. If these numbers are accurate, then they indicate strongly that the idea of Virginia being a battleground state in 2016 may be heading out the window. In the last two elections, John McCain and Mitt Romney lost the state by approximately six points and four points respectively and were by and large still competitive in the polling in the state until at least October of their respective election years. Trump, on the other hand, seems to be seeing the state slipping out of his hands before Labor Day, which presents Republicans with real Electoral College problems, as if they didn’t have plenty of those already.

If Virginia truly is falling out of the battleground state category, then it makes a Republican path to victory even more unlikely than it already was. In the past, I’ve noted that the most likely path for Republicans involved holding on to winning all of the states that Mitt Romney did in 2012, and then winning in Ohio, Florida, and Virginia along with at least one other state. The Trump campaign has suggested that they could pave a path through the industrial Midwest, but the polling out of the states that would make up that kind of coalition, including Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, are looking for the moment as though they’re going to stay firmly in the Democratic camp. If Virginia follows them there, then it will be virtually impossible for Trump to get to 270 Electoral Votes. By contrast, with Virginia and the Midwest firmly on her side, Clinton could stand to lose both Ohio and Florida and still win the election as long as she holds on to states like Colorado, Nevada, and New Hampshire. Additionally, the fact that Clinton is threatening Trump in states that Romney won in 2012 means that she may likely pull in “insurance” Electoral Votes that would offset any gains Trump might make over Romney’s performance in 2012. As with all polling, this represents just a snapshot it time and things could change in the future, but right now it’s not a very pretty picture for the Trump Team.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. John Peabody says:

    All hail HRC.

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  2. OzarkHillbilly says:
  3. Pch101 says:

    I still expect and want Clinton to win, but a lot of polls aren’t exactly making me dance a jig. A lot of them show Clinton in the mid-40s and below, with relatively large numbers for third-party candidates and plenty of undecideds.

    I am not confident that most of the third party voters won’t move to a major party candidate. I realize that this election could be unusual, given the level of opposition to Trump within the GOP, but a shift to the major parties would help Trump net-net. The undecideds could also prove be a wild card, and not for the better.

    The latest CBS poll in Virginia places her at 49% with 5% undecided and 9% going third-party. That isn’t bad but it isn’t exactly decisive, either, given what could happen with the 14%. Move that 14% back to a more traditional two-party vote, and she probably still wins but not by much.

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  4. CSK says:

    And she has a 15 point lead over Trump in New Hampshire. This may be less difficult when your opponent is a psychotic churl.

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  5. Kylopod says:

    @Pch101:

    but a shift to the major parties would help Trump net-net.

    I’m not so sure about that. Clinton currently does slightly worse in polls where the third-party candidates are included. (She’s currently 7.0 ahead of Trump on RCP’s head-to-head average, but when Stein and Johnson are included, it drops to 6.5.) That suggests that if those would-be third-party voters eventually “come home,” it will help her more than hurt her.

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  6. James Pearce says:

    @Pch101:

    I am not confident that most of the third party voters won’t move to a major party candidate.

    If they were interested in “backing a winner” rather than “voting their conscience” they would already be supporting a major party candidate.

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  7. Pch101 says:

    Gary Johnson is polling at about 5-8%, depending.

    On a good day for the Libertarians, they’re lucky to get 1% of the vote.

    If most of those who are expressing support for Johnson now end up voting for a major party, then I would expect that the vast majority of those will vote Republican. The third-party vote is coming largely from the right, and I would expect it to stay on that side of the aisle.

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  8. Kylopod says:

    @Pch101: My guess is that a nontrivial amount of Johnson supporters consist of Bernie Bros. That may seem bizarre given his economic platform, but his views on social and foreign policy issues may attract some on the left, whereas I doubt Stein has comparable pickup potential for anti-Trump Republicans. So what we’re probably looking at right now is that Johnson is drawing from disaffected voters both on the left and right, whereas Stein only draws from the left. That may help explain why Clinton is doing worse in polls where Johnson and Stein are included. The open question is which group of disaffected voters–those on the left or those on the right–are likelier to “come home” in November.

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  9. DrDaveT says:

    Sic semper tyrranis.

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  10. CSK says:

    @Kylopod:

    I could be wrong, but I think it’s a lot more likely that those on the left will come home. For them, it’s a matter of degree, while the NeverTrumpers are so repulsed by everything about the man that it’s more difficult to see them making the the shift.

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  11. Pch101 says:

    The Bernie Bros are a small part of the electorate. Although some voters will cross party and left-right lines for their own reasons (not everyone is a right-left voter), most voters will tend to favor one end of the spectrum over the other.

    I have little doubt that the majority of Johnson supporters who weren’t already Libertarians have been coming from Republicans and GOP-leaning independents. There may be some left-leaners in there, but not many.

    What is up in the air is the number of them that will stick with it. At the end of the day, much of the right is motivated by being anti-Democrat and anti-liberal, and many of them may choose to see Trump as the lesser of two evils. (I hope that they don’t, but who knows what they’ll do.)

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  12. cian says:

    Here’s a couple of facts anyone still wavering on who to back this year need to contemplate

    Russia wants a Trump win
    Isil want a Trump win
    The KKK and white nationalists in general want a Trump win
    Every far right grouping in the world want a Trump win
    People who hate African Americans, Hispanics, Muslims, gays want a Trump win
    Christian Fundamentalists want a Trump win
    The woman in the next aisle shouting at the Mexican lady working the till want’s a Trump win
    The rich kids picking on the poor kid in the canteen, their parents want a Trump win
    People who enjoy urinating on the homeless want a Trump win
    George Zimmerman want’s a Trump win
    Etc…….
    Etc….
    Etc..

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  13. C. Clavin says:

    I think the fact that Georgia is in play is a bigger deal than Virginia.

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  14. SKI says:

    @C. Clavin: You forgot North Korea…

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  15. humanoid.panda says:

    @Pch101: Or they can just not show up to vote.

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  16. CSK says:

    @cian:

    You can add the American Nazi Party to the list of those who want a Trump win. Their chairman, Rocky Suhayda, thinks a Trump residency will be absolutely great for them.

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  17. humanoid.panda says:

    I would be very careful of assigning too much significance to the 3rd party vote. It’s one thing being prompted to to say I will vote A,B,C,D and pick C or D. And its another to learn about C or D (Johnson probably has 25% name recognition and Stein 10%) and then make the effort come out and vote for them when you know they aren’t winning. My prediction is that 40% of the people saying Stein/Johnson won’t vote, 30% will vote Johnson/Stein, and 30% go to major parties. Even if Trump gets 2/3 of that 30% that’ very little in the grand scale of things (and I think the odds of that are pretty tiny: he is unacceptable to both reservoirs of 3rd party voters: Sanders people and #nevertrumpers).

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  18. James Pearce says:

    @C. Clavin:

    I think the fact that Georgia is in play is a bigger deal than Virginia.

    Yep.

    My question about GA: Would it even be in play had Trump not decided to profit from racial animus?

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  19. gVOR08 says:

    @Pch101: Here in OH the Greens are running a Stein ad seems like every hour on the hour. Totally targeting Clinton.

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  20. Kylopod says:

    @Pch101:

    I have little doubt that the majority of Johnson supporters who weren’t already Libertarians have been coming from Republicans and GOP-leaning independents. There may be some left-leaners in there, but not many.

    It doesn’t need to be many in order to influence things. It would mean that disaffected Bernie Bros have two protest candidates to choose from, whereas NeverTrumpers have just one. So even though Johnson draws more from the right than the left, and even though Johnson is doing a lot better than Stein, the combination of the two seems to be drawing more from potential Clinton voters than from potential Trump voters. (And I again emphasize that I’m not just speculating here; it’s supported by polls, which have been showing Clinton doing better in head-to-head matchups against Trump than when Johnson and Stein are included.)

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  21. Jen says:

    @gVOR08:

    Here in OH the Greens are running a Stein ad seems like every hour on the hour. Totally targeting Clinton.

    I have no idea what the frequency is (I really don’t watch too much TV), but they are running ads in NH too, and yes, also targeting Clinton. I’m fairly certain she’s trying to grab as many disaffected Sanders supporters as possible, but I think many of them are taking Sanders at his word that he supports Clinton now.

    Also, purely anecdotally, my husband and I have both noticed that there seem to be fewer Trump signs up–some of the regular roads we travel had loads of them as recently as a few weeks ago. They aren’t up anymore.

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  22. CSK says:

    @James Pearce:

    I just read an article in the Washington Examiner stating that Clinton’s lead over Trump in Georgia is in fact 7 points, not 4.

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  23. Tony W says:

    @gVOR08: Stein is little threat – terrible name recognition, and many of those who have heard of her consider her a liberal with odd anti-science beliefs. She has nowhere near the refined and consistent messaging that Sanders showed during the primaries.

    Johnson, by way of comparison, is the talk of my Republican Facebook friends. He represents their opportunity to still reject the caricature of Hillary Clinton that still prevails in some circles, without accepting the Russian-sponsored evil that is Agent Orange.

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  24. CSK says:

    @Jen:

    Speaking as your neighbor to the south, I can confirm that in Mass., many of the relatively few Trump signs I saw a few months ago have vanished.

    I’m still confounded that Trump not only won the Mass. primary, but with nearly 50% of the vote. I think that was more than any other state.

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  25. Kylopod says:

    @CSK:

    I’m still confounded that Trump not only won the Mass. primary, but with nearly 50% of the vote. I think that was more than any other state.

    Well, it was more than any other state until very late in the race, when he started winning solid majorities in the remaining Northeastern states. That was the point when his remaining opponents Cruz and Kasich became mathematically eliminated from winning the nomination on the first ballot. At that point, I suspect a lot of Republican voters were like “Eh, let’s get this over with.” Still, there’s little doubt that the Northeast was his best region in the primaries, which it almost certainly will not be in the general election.

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  26. CSK says:

    @Kylopod:

    Actually, Kasich, Cruz, Rubio, Carson, Bush, Paul, Christie, Fiorina, Pataki, Santorum, Huckabee, and Gilmore were still on the ballot at that point. Kasich got 18%, Rubio got 17.9%, Cruz got 9.6%, Carson got 2.6%, Bush got 1%, and everyone remaining below 1%.

    Supposedly 22,000 Mass. Democrats changed their registrations to Republican to vote for Trump. Whether they changed back the next day, I don’t know.

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  27. Grumpy Realist says:

    How much of the support for Trump was a protest vote? Now that the guy is actually the candidate, people may be saying hey wait a minnit..

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  28. James Pearce says:

    @CSK:

    I just read an article in the Washington Examiner stating that Clinton’s lead over Trump in Georgia is in fact 7 points, not 4.

    That should be incredible (as in, not credible) but it fits in with the notion that Trump has almost no support among black Americans.

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  29. Kylopod says:

    @CSK:

    Supposedly 22,000 Mass. Democrats changed their registrations to Republican to vote for Trump.

    I heard about that. It’s important to be cautious about drawing conclusions too quickly over such facts: just because people are registered with a party, it doesn’t follow that they were actual Democratic voters. It’s especially common in Democratic areas where the primaries are essentially the elections for conservatives to be registered as Democrats just so they can have a meaningful vote in local races. (I’ve got a friend from my home town in Baltimore whose political views are somewhere to the right of Alan Keyes, and he’s registered as a Democrat. I’ve seen that sort of thing a lot in my experience.)

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  30. CSK says:

    @James Pearce:

    According to the latest information I could find, Trump has exactly 0% support among African Americans in Ohio and Pennsylvania. A July 26 poll found that Trump has the support of 12.4% of African Americans in Georgia. But I wouldn’t be at all surprised if that number hasn’t dwindled since then.

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  31. CSK says:

    @Kylopod:

    Mass. is a little strange. It will happily vote for a Republican for governor, but both senators (with the temporary exception of Scott Brown) have been Democrats for about 40 years, and all our reps are Democrats and have been for quite some time. The state legislature is about 90% Democratic.

    But, of registered voters, 1,490,335 are Democrats, 468,265 are Republicans, and 2,277,760 are unenrolled (Independents). So there are more Independents than Rs and Ds combined.

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  32. Tyrell says:

    Maybe I can catch some Civil War battle reenactments at Manassas, Fredricksburg. Cold Harbor, and Chancellorsville.

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  33. Pch101 says:

    @CSK:

    A lot of voters don’t participate in primaries, for a variety of reasons.

    Let’s put this into the context of Massachusetts:

    -In 2016, about 312k Massachusetts voters chose Trump in the primary

    -In 2012, about 1.2 million Massachusetts voters chose Romney in the general election

    Primary voters are more committed than average, so they tend to be more extreme than the norm. There will be a lot more voters in November, and a larger proportion of those general election voters will lack the agitation that is evident in some of those primary voters.

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  34. C. Clavin says:
  35. CSK says:

    Oh, my. Did you know that Detroit is a “t!tty,” not a “city”? Donald Trump just said so in his speech on the revitalization of the economy. I can’t give the link, because it probably won’t get past the word filter, but just go to http://www.mediaite.com, and you see the article and the video.

    It’s the laugh of Twitter.

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  36. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @CSK: Wait a second–Rocky Suhayda? What’s this, an honorary Ayran heading the ANP?

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  37. JohnMcC says:

    @CSK: You got me to wonderin’ about that amazing GA poll from the AJC that gave Sec’ty Clinton a 4% lead. I had also wondered about the internals but didn’t take the time to root them out. So I did just now.

    Here’s an interesting thing — on the question frequently asked in polls, ‘America – right direction or wrong direction’ there is a clear difference in every survey I’ve looked at by race. In the AJC poll blacks were 42% ‘right direction’ and 49% ‘wrong’. Whites were 18% ‘right’ and 77% ‘wrong’. Some reasons for that are obvious — first black President and so on.

    And the reply to your remark above that the AAmerican number for Mr Trump is surely less than 12% is that you are correct. The AJC found black voters went 5% for Mr Trump and 83% for Sec’ty Clinton.

    In that poll BTW Republicans for Clinton rang up 22%. Republicans for Trump got ‘only’ 63%. Which rather surprised me. But there was a mirror image on the other side of the coin (to mix metaphors!): Dems for Trump – 23% but for Clinton ‘only’ 64%. Don’t know what to make of that.

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  38. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @gVOR08: Remember that Cornel West is pulling for a Stein vote seemingly for the effect of electing Trump so the nation can get the revolution it deserves. Running against Hillary specifically isn’t all that unreasonable under the circumstances.

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  39. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Grumpy Realist: Brexit was a protest vote too. Moral: be careful what you wish for.

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  40. grumpy realist says:

    An analysis of Trump’s “economic plan”

    The only thing I could think of was ‘It’s a floor wax AND a dessert topping!”

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  41. JohnMcC says:

    @C. Clavin: I understand and share the joy at the fracturing of the Republican coalition. But I am uneasy with the thought that the more interventionist side of the so-called foreign policy establishment that have found themselves happy in Republican administrations since Nixon is now on Sec’ty Clinton’s side. Would not want her to attribute her election to that particular constituency.

    I’m not a pacifist but I could play one on TV.

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  42. CSK says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’rant cracker:

    His full name is Rocky Joe Suhayda. The surname appears to be Hungarian. Google his image.

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  43. JohnMcC says:

    @Tyrell: You reminded me of one of my favorite memories of hiking the Appalachian Trail in Maryland. One very foggy morning toward the end of a three day walk I hiked into the middle of a huge encampment of reenactors. And those guys are amazingly authentic! I really had a ‘twilight zone’ experience, wandered through their tents with campfires and stacked rifles, passed sentries and harmonica-playing soldiers in blue and they all completely ignored me. I could have been ghost. It was too weird and then I saw a brightly lit Coke machine and there was the paved road and all was well. I still chuckle at that.

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  44. C. Clavin says:

    @JohnMcC:
    I just find it fascinating…when have 50 policy experts, from a nominees own party, openly come out against him (or her)?
    And they aren’t nobodies…they are heavy-weights in the Republican Party.
    It’s one thing for Obama to say Trump is unfit for the office. But 50 Republican Nat’l Security experts? Fifty? How do you spin that away?

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  45. CSK says:

    @C. Clavin:

    If you’re a Trumpkin, you explain it away very easily. These fifty experts are lying globalist elitist RINO traitors who are in league with Hillary Clinton to turn the U.S.A. into a third world socialist hellhole. If you think I’m exaggerating…I’m not.

    In any case, this was reported in the New York Times, which they do not consider a legitimate news source since it’s the propaganda organ of the “Democrat” party. The Times probably made the whole thing up anyway.

    The only legitimate news sources for a Trumpkin are Breitbart, Infowars, The Gateway Pundit, and The Conservative Treehouse.

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  46. CSK says:

    @grumpy realist:

    And if you order two you get a Popeil Pocket Fisherman.

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  47. grumpy realist says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’rant cracker: Yes, it’s been amusing to watch the “wait, wait, we didn’t intend to go THAT far!!!” and running around in panic-stricken little circles on the part of the Brits.

    Sort of like Brownback getting elected in Kansas–you broke it, you own it.

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  48. Kylopod says:

    There’s another little stat I noticed from Nate Silver’s forecasts which supports what I’ve been saying: According to his “polls-only” forecast, Donald Trump has a 13.7% chance of winning the election. However, he’s given only a 2.1% chance of winning 50% or more of the popular vote! In other words, according to Silver’s estimate it is very close to certain that Trump cannot win without a significant portion of the vote going to third party candidates–which suggests, again, that the third party candidates are helping him more than hurting him.

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  49. Jen says:

    @C. Clavin: They were on CNN spinning it thusly: “this collection of folks are the ones who got us into the mess in Iraq, along with HRC’s vote for the war–it’s all their fault, I don’t want their support anyway.”

    It’s actually a clear, cogent message. I think the damage is done, however–this letter is a bigger story than the “economic speech” that he gave today.

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  50. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @grumpy realist:

    …the right likes to use Detroit as a backdrop and shorthand for all that they feel ails the American economy

    I would be okay with using Detroit this way except that the shorthand always comes out “too many blue collar workers earn too high of wages because of too many union contracts.”

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  51. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @CSK: It still makes little sense in that–as a Polish professor explained to me while I was in Korea–Hungarians are Slavs and cannot be compared to real Europeans.

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  52. DrDaveT says:

    @DrDaveT: Wow, I know I misspelled tyrannis, but I didn’t expect downvotes for that…

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  53. DrDaveT says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’rant cracker:

    Hungarians are Slavs and cannot be compared to real Europeans.

    As a nationality, Hungarians are Magyars and Slavs and Prussians and Ashkenazic Jews and Tatars and a few other odd ingredients.

    As an ethnicity, Hungarians are Magyars — Turkic, not Slavic.

    Not that I think that would have improved things in the eyes of your Polish colleague.

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  54. Rafer Janders says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’rant cracker:

    It still makes little sense in that–as a Polish professor explained to me while I was in Korea–Hungarians are Slavs and cannot be compared to real Europeans.

    No, that’s wrong. Hungarians are not Slavs, they are Magyars. They are descendants of Turkic horsemen from the Eurasian steppe and are ethnically and linguistically distinct from Slavs, Germans, and other ethno-linguistic groups in Central Europe. They are a very distinct group within Europe.

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  55. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Rafer Janders and others: So, he still isn’t Aryan, right? Doesn’t racial purity matter anymore?

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  56. SC_Birdflyte says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’rant cracker: That’s odd. A Hungarian friend of mine many years ago explained that Hungarians were Magyars, not Slavs. European or not – who knows for sure?

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  57. Kylopod says:

    All this discussion over Rocky Suhayda’s ancestry, and nobody seems to have noticed the obvious point that the man is obscure enough that he doesn’t even have his own Wikipedia page: you’re sent to the general page for the American Nazi Party. And even that’s giving him too much credit, because if you read further, you discover that this ANP bears no direct lineage from George Lincoln Rockwell’s organization in the 1960s, which died out a long time ago; it’s just a group that decided to call itself “the American Nazi Party.”

    (Modern incarnations of the KKK are like that, too. For example, numerous press reports describe David Duke as a “former Klan leader” or a “former Grand Wizard of the KKK.” In fact, he was the leader of a Klan group that he created. We give these people way too much credit.)

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  58. KM says:

    @grumpy realist:

    How much of the support for Trump was a protest vote? Now that the guy is actually the candidate, people may be saying hey wait a minnit….

    That’s why I deny that there is such a thing as a “protest vote”. Essentially, those who use the term think they mean “I felt safe that the good outcome will happen so I will use my vote to make a meaningless statement:. My conscious is clear and I get my cake too.” It’s like vaccines and herd immunity – anti-vaxxers counting on everyone’ else’s vaccinated state to keep them healthy while they rail against Big Pharma. They NEED people to do the right thing so they can do their go-my-own-way thing.

    In reality, you voted for the other guy and added another notch in their tally. Get enough people to do it and WHOOPS! Suddenly your protest isn’t so harmless. Voting is a choice: you literally chose only A, B or C. The numbers don’t care if you picked B to spite A; B’s count rises regardless. A protest vote is just a plain old vote for the opponent.

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  59. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Kylopod: Now I understand better. And it’s good to know that the REAL ANP has shuffled off to a well deserved obscurity. We can wish for as much for the Klan, also.

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