Asking and Receiving

So I have a newfound interest in local politics, thanks to my negligent congresswoman Thelma Drake. I’ve been sniffing around her Democratic opponent this year, one Glenn Nye (please, no Bill Nye jokes), and in so doing, a commenter at the blog provided some very interesting polling data.

“To: Interested Parties
From: Jill Normington/Bennett, Petts & Normington
Date: May 9, 2008
RE: Poll findings in VA-02

The following is a summary of findings from a telephone survey conducted among 400 likely voters in the Second Congressional District of Virginia. Interviews were conducted May 6-8, 2008. The sampling error for this survey is plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.


Congresswoman Thelma Drake is vulnerable with every measure of her political support below 50%, which is the level acknowledged to be safe for an incumbent. Specifically:
• Only 40% would vote to re-elect Drake.
• After four years in office, Drake has a 48% positive and a 47% negative job rating.

Drake is clearly carrying considerable negative baggage.
• Drake has a favorable rating of just 48% positive and 29% negative with nearly universal (95%) name recognition.
• Against an opponent with only 9% name identification, Drake can manage only 48% of the vote compared to 32% for Glenn Nye.
• After voters are presented with a profile of Nye as a Foreign Service Officer who rescued American hostages with a message of commonsense economics and bipartisanship and one of Drake that highlights her local roots with a message of being pro-military and anti-taxes, Nye pulls into a statistical tie (45% to 47%).
• After an exchange of negative statements about both candidates, Nye pulls into the lead, 49% to 40%, against Drake.

On every key measure of political support – favorable rating, job rating, re-elect, vote share – Drake is able to do no better than 48%. It is clear that if Glenn Nye is able to acquire the resources needed to mount a vigorous challenge, he can defeat Thelma Drake.

In addition to Drake’s vulnerability, the political environment is advantageous for a Democrat. Not only does President Bush have poor ratings, but Virginia Democrats are popular. Specifically:
• President Bush has highly net negative favorable and job ratings.
• Bush Favorable Rating: 38% favorable, 51% unfavorable.
• Bush Job Rating: 31% positive, 68% negative.
• Just 19% think the country is headed in the right direction while 69% think it is on the wrong track.
• Statewide Democratic figures are well-liked and provide a ready example of the potential of Democrats to win in VA-02.
• Governor Tim Kaine Job Rating: 59% positive, 37% negative.
• Former Governor Mark Warner leads Former Governor Jim Gilmore 58% to 33% in the race for U.S. Senate.”

Now, these are some very solid numbers for Nye going into the thing, but there are some drawbacks as well. My largest issue stems from the shadow candidate syndrome wherein anonymous candidates tend to do better than real ones.

The reason for this is because shadow candidates don’t have real life qualities, and therefore act more like a community rorschach test, providing more a referendum on the incumbent than they do on the realistic chances of would be challengers from the opposing party.

Further, the polling attempts to account for the rorschach or shadow candidate effect by imposing specific traits and historical events to Glenn Nye, but the flaw in this methodology is that politicians often don’t get to choose what events and stories define them. Ask Obama about Rev. Wright sometime, I’m sure he’ll agree with me.

Regardless, Thelma Drake, who ran essentially as George W. Bush’s footstool, is still very vulnerable, especially if she is hovering around and under that fifty percent approval rating. To Nye’s further credit, he’s apparently raised $250,000 as a Democrat in a very Republican district.

But Virginia’s 2nd district carries with it even more implications. We Virginians I think have Mark Warner to thank for helping begin a progression that is slowly turning Virginia blue. Before Warner, this was as Republican a state as you could get, but the fact that Warner left office with approval ratings in the 70’s I think paved the way for Jim Webb’s successful 06 Senatorial bid, and Tim Kaine’s successful 05 Gubernatorial run.

Shorter: this is a state that we can turn completely blue, and I think having Obama as the nominee helps an awful lot. Obama has some strong ties to this state’s organization (Tim Kaine was the first governor outside Illinois to endorse Obama, making him one of the earliest Super Delegates to stand in his camp), and while I’ve long suggested Hillary may not win Virginia, Obama is a lock, even over the Naval veteran John McCain.

And I think if we are working on turning Virginia into a blue state, I think you have to go after the Virginia 2nd. Living in the Virginia 2nd, I don’t know all of its make up (it’s pretty big), but it is important to note that while it is traditionally Republican it is not a homogenous mix of the anti-tax, socially conservative brand of Republicans that are perhaps the most difficult for Democrats to make headway in.

To this end, I think this is one of the races that should get some national prominence, especially amongst the Democratic netroots. It’s not necessarily the big blow that last night’s win in Mississippi’s 1st, but Virginia’s 2nd is a major get none-the-less.

But to make that win happen, it’s going to take money and support, and so I’m going to ask you guys to help me out here, check out Nye’s website. If you got a little extra change, toss it his way, and if you know some friends in Virginia, you know of some Va bloggers, let me know. Let them know. We can take Drake out this time.

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