When it comes to the Commonwealth of Virginia, the Republicans are in the throes of a long losing streak. In recent years, the Democrats have elected two governors — Mark Warner in 2001 and Tim Kaine in 2005 — and two Senators — Jim Webb in 2006 and Warner by a landslide in 2008. In addition, Barack Obama carried the state by about the same comfortable margin he produced nationwide. .
The winning streak is probably about to end, however. A Washington Post poll shows Republican Bob McDonnell leading Democrat Creigh Deeds by a 47 to 40 margin in the upcoming contest for governor. The lead is even more substantial – 54 to 39 — among likely voters.
The poll shows that most voters are not “locked in” (to use the Post’s term). But absent a “macaca moment,” it’s not clear how Deeds will catch up. McDonnell’s lead appears to be the function of a poor economy and a bit of fatigue with eight years of Democratic rule, particularly in the Democratic stronghold of Northern Virginia where traffic keeps getting worse and worse. The economy may improve enough to save Democratic incumbents in 2010, but no significant improvement is likely to be evident in early November 2009.
Recognizing his problems, even in liberal Northern Virginia, Deeds has recently tried to portray his pro-life opponent as “outside the mainstream” on the abortion issue. The Post notes, however, that more Virginians continue to perceive Deeds as too liberal than consider McDonnell too conservative.
Sixteen years ago, the Republicans signaled their revival with wins in the Virginia and New Jersey governors’ races. This year, they seem likely to replicate these victories. This hardly guarantees a 1994 style comeback next year. But right now, Republicans need a psychological boost and their chances of obtaining one in November seem good.
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