Politics & Policy

Beyond McDonnell

It's looking like a good year for Virginia's down-ticket Republicans.

Based on voter projections, the news-network decision desks can call a winner in Virginia’s governor’s race — oh, right about now, really.

While everyone knows not to count chickens before they hatch, it would require an epic, nearly unprecedented turn of events for Democrat Creigh Deeds to defeat Republican Bob McDonnell in the Virginia governor’s race. Most polling indicates McDonnell’s margin of victory will be in the double digits; his average lead on Pollster.com is 13 points.

So beyond McDonnell, what should Republicans look for on Election Night in Virginia?

First, the Republicans running for lieutenant governor (incumbent Bill Bolling) and attorney general (Ken Cuccinelli) should win by margins comparable to McDonnell’s. In recent days, McDonnell has transferred cash to Bill Bolling’s campaign and recorded a robo-call for Bolling. Democrats tell Virginia’s political reporters that their lieutenant gubernatorial candidate, Jody Wagner, is their best shot in a statewide race; that “best shot” is down 13 in the most recent poll.

In the D.C. market, television ads for the attorney general’s race are almost as ubiquitous as those for the top of the ticket. Neither candidate’s commercials mention party affiliation — a signal that this is still a purple state — and Democrat Steve Shannon’s mailers feature a young boy praying that someone protects him from criminals. But the latest poll puts Cuccinelli up 15 on Shannon, and Republicans statewide speak about Cuccinelli’s turnout operation with a combination of admiration and envy.

The Virginia state-delegate races are where things really get interesting. State senators serve four-year terms and are not up for reelection, but Republicans now hold 53 house seats, Democrats hold 45, and two independents generally vote with the Republicans. Democrats control the state senate, and once hoped to take control of the house.

That’s not going to happen. GOP sources say the party has challengers within the margin of error or better against Democratic incumbents in eleven races, whereas they’re worried about only one or two of their own incumbents. That math suggests that a gain of nine seats is not unthinkable, a scenario that seems to grow more plausible as McDonnell’s lead grows. Most put the number of gained seats between three and eight, with a best-case scenario of 11 seats gained.

Here’s a selection of some of the competitive and likely-to-flip seats:

– Jim Geraghty writes the Campaign Spot on NRO.

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