Bob McDonnell has opened up a double digit lead over Creigh Deeds in his quest to be Virginia's next Governor. He now leads 52-40, up from 48-43 three weeks ago.
McDonnell's standing is largely the result of two things: considerable support from independents and a disengaged Democratic electorate. With independents, who tend to split pretty evenly, the Republican leads 60-31. And while Barack Obama won Virginia by six points last year, the voters planning to turn out this fall supported John McCain by six points, a clear indication that many Democratic voters are just planning to stay at home.
That lack of Democratic enthusiasm has been the story for much of the general election campaign. 56% of McDonnell supporters say they're 'very excited' about voting this fall while only 34% of Deeds' backers share that sentiment.
During September Deeds had seemed to get some momentum with the 'thesis' issue but now 54% of voters say they think his campaign has put too much focus on that. 69% of Republicans predictably feel that way but so do 62% of independents and even 30% of Democrats.
While they've gotten a lot less attention it actually seems that McDonnell's attacks on Deeds have been more effective. When we first polled the general election in early July 29% of voters in the state had an unfavorable opinion of Deeds. Now 48% do. McDonnell's negatives have increased only from 32% to 35% during that time. At the start of the campaign they both had a net favorability rating of +19. Now McDonnell's is +21 and Deeds' is -7.
Deeds' difficulties are having implications down the ballot. Ken Cuccinelli leads Steve Shannon 52-37 for Attorney General and Bill Bolling has a 49-39 advantage over Jody Wagner for Lieutenant Governor. Beyond that Republicans lead 46-36 on the generic ballot for the House of Delegates.
We still don't find evidence of a lot of Obama/McDonnell voters- they account for less than 5% of the electorate. Deeds' problems are almost exclusively due to his inability to engage the Democratic base. The three groups of voters most critical to Obama's success in the state last year were women, African Americans, and young folks. Deeds trails 51-42 with women, only leads 68-20 with blacks when Democrats usually receive at least 80% of their votes, and is tied at 44 with voters under 30.
Deeds should receive some benefit in getting Democrats more interested from Bill Clinton's visit yesterday and the one from Barack Obama coming next week- but based on where he stands right now he needs to turn out 200,000-300,000 more Democrats than are currently planning to vote, and that is quite a tall order with just 13 days to go.
Full results here