The recent Washington Post poll of the Virginia gubernatorial race showed Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli leading former Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe by 5 points among registered voters (46 percent to 41 percent) and by 10 points among likely voters (51 percent to 41 percent).
As most know, early polls often reflect name recognition, the public’s initial impressions of the candidates, the strength of the two parties’ brands in the state, partisan intensity, the popularity of the incumbent, or even the popularity of the sitting president. But early polls don’t necessarily predict what will happen after campaigns spend millions of dollars to move public opinion.
The Post reported that McAuliffe, a wealthy Washington lobbyist and party insider, was significantly under-performing among African Americans and in the Tidewater. But the big question for the Republican is how he will do with independents and swing voters — just the kinds of Virginians who may have problems with Cuccinelli’s conservatism and haven’t made anything close to a final decision about how they will vote in November.
The recent Post poll tells us nothing about that. And because of it, the survey is a mere data point, an interesting but less than truly important bit of information for anyone seeking to figure out who will win the Virginia gubernatorial race six months from now.