The undecideds have broken almost exclusively to Creigh Deeds in Virginia's Democratic primary for Governor, allowing him to open up a double digit lead 36 hours before voters in the state head to the polls.
Deeds is now at 40%, followed by Terry McAuliffe at 26%, and Brian Moran at 24%. Since PPP's last poll Deeds has gained 13% while his opponents have each gone up by just 2%.
Among the reasons for Deeds' ascent are:
-A remarkable increase in support in northern Virginia in the wake of the Washington Post endorsement. More Democratic primary votes are cast there than anywhere else, and in the last two and a half weeks Deeds has gone from polling at just 11% there to a surprising lead in the region with 38% to 35% for Moran and 20% for McAuliffe. The endorsement is not inherently a game changer but the Deeds campaign effectively milked it for all it was worth with signs, mailers, and a late media buy. All of that paid huge dividends.
-He finally consolidated the anti-McAuliffe vote. Even though Terry McAuliffe has always had higher negatives than his two opponents combined, for most of the campaign voters with an unfavorable opinion of him were splitting almost evenly between Deeds and Moran, resulting in both of their polling behind McAuliffe. In the closing weeks though much of that has gravitated toward Deeds as he now has a 58-35 lead on Moran among voters who don't like the former DNC chair. Since those folks comprise 40% of the electorate, it is a very important group to do well with.
-He made the most of the Democratic primary being pretty much the only game in town for Republicans and independent voters. Deeds has a 10 point lead with primary voters who are Democrats, but we also project 20% of the folks who turn out on Tuesday to be independents and 6% to be Republicans. Among those voters Deeds has a 26 point lead, with 48% to 22% for McAuliffe and 19% for Moran. His support from them pushes his overall lead to 14 points.
-He racked up the kinds of margins he needed outside the suburbs of DC and the urban areas of Richmond and Hampton Roads. In his 540 area code he is at 56% and has a 33 point lead on McAuliffe. In 434 he is at 49% and has a 22 point lead on McAuliffe. These areas in total may cast only a quarter of the votes in a Democratic primary but when you pull those kinds of margins it makes a big difference.
What happened to Moran?
-He always needed a dominating performance in northern Virginia to win this primary, but he never really built on his initial support. On our first poll conducted at the end of January he was polling at 34% in the region. Now with a 43% reduction in undecideds there he's polling at 35%. Deeds' momentum there completely took the wind out of his sails.
-He never gained traction in any other part of the state. He's in last place in every other region. Even though he didn't get the level of support he needed in NoVa, that's still where he's getting 45% of his voters.
What happened to McAuliffe?
-Although his early ad buys allowed him to build up support in parts of the state where none of the candidates had a natural base, like Richmond and Hampton Roads, the support he was building was weak. Once he no longer had the airwaves to himself, Deeds was able to build support and Moran hurt McAuliffe with negative ads.
-He ended up with remarkably high negatives. When 40% of the voters in your own party's primary say they have an unfavorable opinion of you it's very hard to get enough support from the rest to assemble a winning margin.
Voter preferences in this election are about as fluid as in any race PPP has ever polled. The fact that Deeds went from 20% to 40% in two and a half weeks speaks pretty strongly to that. There have always been a lot of undecideds, and we have repeatedly showed that even many voters with a preference are open to changing it. Usually voter preferences are pretty hardened by 48-72 hours before an election but if there was ever one where that could change this would be it. That said, Deeds' margin is pretty commanding.
In the race for Lieutenant Governor Jody Wagner now leads with 41% to 12% for Michael Signer and 6% for Jon Bowerbank who is no longer running but whose name is still on the ballot.
Full results here.