There’s a motto among political staffers that the only poll that matters is on Election Day. Considering how most polling data suggested Hillary Clinton was going to win the 2016 presidential election, this is most certainly something to keep in mind. With that being said, however, a new Wason Center poll has some good news for Democrats as they are leading Republicans by a 49% to 36% margin on a “generic ballot.”
That 13 point margin definitely give Democrats something to be optimistic about and it only gets better when you look at who voters want to control both chambers of the General Assembly. By a 53% to 37% margin, voters want to see control of the General Assembly flip to the Democrats this fall. And in case you’re worried about those numbers being to heavily dependent on self identified Democrats, it includes a 17 point margin among independents.
When it comes down to it, Republican incumbents are hoping to use their name recognition and years in office in an attempt to overcome the struggles they’re facing in the “generic ballot.” Tim Hugo, after all, is the sole remaining Republican representing portions of Fairfax County in the House of Delegates because he’s been able to out perform other Republicans. He was able to win in the 40th District by 99 votes in 2017 (or .36 percent) even though Northam won it on the same day with 55%. It’s largely gone for other Democrats during the last five years (including Kaine winning 59% in 2018), which means Hugo’s managed to stay in office despite the district trending more Democratic.
With the increased media attention on the 40th District, a strong challenger in Dan Helmer, and momentum leaning towards Democrats, however, I can’t imagine Hugo is happy to see the polling show Northern Virginia voters prefer Democrats by a 25 point margin (55%-30%). And as the disgust with Donald Trump keeps growing, Trump’s approval numbers of 37% in Virginia don’t look good for folks like Hugo who have embraced his type of politics.
Even though the numbers were collected largely before the scandal involving Trump and Ukraine vote, it was still obvious Democrats were motivated to turn out to vote. “Democrats have a significant advantage over Republicans on voter enthusiasm, 62% to 49%,” the analysis published alongside the data said. “Further, 84% of Democrats say they will definitely vote, compared with 74% of Republicans and 75% of Independents.”
With even more people likely excited to send a message after the Ukraine scandal, there very well could have been another enthusiasm bump. Considering turnout in off, off year elections like this are traditionally around 30%, that advantage in enthusiasm could prove to be extremely beneficial for Democrats.
Since the issue of gun violence has become one of the major issues in this election, it should be noted that voters largely favor policies that would help curb gun violence. Voters support universal background checks by a 83% to 12% margin and banning assault style weapons by a 67% to 29% margin. With that in mind, I imagine Hugo’s hoping people won’t notice he’s among the biggest recipients of NRA money, voted in favor of legislation repealing regulations limiting gun purchases to one per month, and opposed legislation allowing localities to implement measures to decrease the amount of gun violence in their community.
What this all means is Democrats have good reason to be optimistic about the outcome of this year’s elections. At the same time, the Trump like tactics Republicans are taking to inspire their base and the traditionally low turnout means nothing can be taken for granted.