What Kind of Turnout Will Virginia See Tuesday?

by Jim Geraghty

A small reason for Republican hope in Virginia: In 2009, Bob McDonnell’s margin of victory was 4 percentage points larger than the RealClearPolitics average — 17.5 points, instead of 13.4 points.

McAuliffe currently leads in the RCP average by 8.4 points. Quinnipiac created a stir in the race earlier this week when they showed McAuliffe leading by only 4 points.

There are two differing schools of thought on how big the turnout will be. NBC News looks at history and contemplates lower turnout than 2009’s 40 percent:

Turnout has dipped only twice from the previous election — in 1985 and 1997. Interestingly, those two elections featured candidates who didn’t become household names for the long haul (Baliles and Gilmore), and they came after presidential RE-ELECTs. Will we end up adding 2013 to that list?

Another analyst thinks last cycle was the floor:

Geoffrey Skelley, an analyst and spokesman for the University of Virginia Center for Politics, said off-cycle elections like the commonwealth’s gubernatorial race have seen a steady drop in voter participation since 1997. But he believes the roughly 40-percent turnout in 2009 was an aberration.

“I think we’ll see somewhere between the 2005 [45-percent] mark and 2009,” Skelley said. “One of the reasons turnout was that low last time was that it was a 17-point blowout. It looks like McAuliffe may win by 10 or more points by Election Day, but that’s not quite at the same level.”

And the Washington Post’s poll contended that turnout will favor the Democrats:

The poll finds McAuliffe with a substantial lead across a variety of high- and low-turnout scenarios. Among all registered voters, McAuliffe’s supporters are slightly more apt to say they are “absolutely certain” they will go to the polls than Cuccinelli’s.

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