There hasn't been much movement over the last two and a half weeks in the Virginia Governor's race, but what has occurred is all in Creigh Deeds' direction.
That doesn't change the fact that Terry McAuliffe continues to hold a solid lead.
McAuliffe is at 29%, followed by Deeds and Brian Moran each tied at 20%, McAuliffe and Moran have stayed in place since the last poll, while Deeds has made a six point gain.
McAuliffe's continued lead speaks to a savvy campaign strategy. In the places where none of the three candidates had a natural base- greater Richmond and Hampton Roads- he has made himself the candidate of choice. And in the places where Moran and Deeds do have a natural advantage- northern Virginia and the more rural parts of the state respectively- McAuliffe has done a good job of at least making himself the second choice even if he is not likely to score outright victories in those areas.
Since going on the air Deeds has made significant gains Southside and in Hampton Roads and Richmond. He also now has the best favorability ratings of the trio, holding both the highest positives and the lowest negatives. Deeds' spread is at 42/16, followed by Moran at 38/20, and McAuliffe at 37/36.
The reason that Deeds and Moran are having trouble catching up even with such a large swath of the primary electorate holding a negative opinion of McAuliffe is that neither of them has been able to break away with the support of the front runner's detractors. Among people who view McAuliffe unfavorably Moran leads Deeds 40-35. The fact that those votes are splitting so evenly may end up being what hands the nomination to McAuliffe. A two way contest would likely be a dead heat at this point.
With 31% of the electorate undecided and 42% of those with a current preference open to the possibility of changing it there continue to be quite a few votes up for grabs. Here are some key points of strategy for each of the contenders in the last two and a half weeks:
-Improve his standing in Northern Virginia. Although he has made strides of late he is still in a distant last place at 11% in the most voter rich part of the state. He needs to find a way to turn the momentum from his Washington Post endorsement into votes.
-Cement his status as the candidate of choice for conservative Democrats. He leads McAuliffe 32-13 right now with them but 49% are undecided compared to just 24% of liberals and 30% of moderates. It might not be the largest swath of the primary electorate but getting all those undecideds to come down in his camp would do a lot to move him closer.
-Firm up the black vote and get it out. This contest is in the margin of error right now among white voters, but McAuliffe has a solid lead overall because he has nearly a 20 point advantage with African Americans. 43% of black voters are undecided compared to 25% of whites so he needs to continue lining up their votes and he also needs to make sure they hit the polls in what is shaping up as a pretty low interest election. The higher turnout is the better shape McAuliffe will find himself in.
-Build some support outside of Northern Virginia. Right now he is in last place in every section of the state except for his home region. It may have more voters than any other part, but he's not going to win unless he significantly improves his standing in the other parts of the state down the stretch run.
Creigh Deeds and Brian Moran:
-Step up efforts to turn out independents and Republicans. Our numbers have consistently shown that McAuliffe is the least well liked of the Democratic trio with these voters. In most of the state there's really no reason to turn out for the GOP primary this year, so if those folks could be convinced to turn out and vote against McAuliffe it could provide a boon to Deeds and/or Moran.
In the race for Lieutenant Governor Jody Wagner leads Michael Signer 21-11.
Full results here