Some of the most powerful voters this year in the Democratic primary for Governor of Virginia might not be Democrats.
With no contest for Governor on the Republican side, it seems likely that a high percentage of independents who bother to vote in the primary will choose the Democratic ballot. Voters who don't identify with either party have accounted for 16% of the likely electorate in each of our last two polls.
That's bad news for Terry McAuliffe because he is not popular at this point with that swath of the electorate. He has had a net negative favorability rating with independents on each of our last two polls. The one this week showed 34% viewing him negatively and only 21% positively, and four weeks before that the numbers were 31% unfavorable and just 21% favorable.
Creigh Deeds and Brian Moran both have strong ratings among the independents who have formed an opinion of them.
McAuliffe is also in the basement when it comes to the horse race with that group. In the most recent poll Deeds led with 21% compared to 19% for Moran and 12% for McAuliffe. Prior to that it was Deeds with 20%, Moran with 18%, and McAuliffe with 11%.
In a race that appears close enough right now that anything could tip the scales, McAuliffe's lack of popularity with independents could be a liability for him come election day.