The new Washington Post poll that shows Terry McAuliffe leading Ken Cuccinelli by 12%, 51-39%, has some very interesting results in deeper poll questions that raise the question of voter intensity.
Q: (Among McAuliffe supporters) Is your vote more for McAuliffe, or more against Cuccinelli?
For McAuliffe 34% / Against Cuccinelli 64%
Q: (Among Cuccinelli supporters) Is your vote more for Cuccinelli, or more against McAuliffe?
For Cuccinelli 50% / Against McAuliffe 44%
So, half of Cuccinelli supporters are doing so because they are supporting him versus only one-third of McAuliffe supporters who are voting for their candidate.
First of all, this shows exactly how effective McAuliffe’s multi-million media blitz to demonize Cuccinelli has been. There is no denying that.
Second, however, it exposes a potential Achilles’ heel for McAuliffe similar to the one that brought him down in the 2009 Democratic primary.
When you look at the Likely Voter sample of 762 in the Post poll, the 51-39% split translates to a 389-297 McAuliffe advantage. When you take into account those who say they are actually voting FOR their candidate as opposed to against the other guy, the advantage switches to Cuccinelli 149-132 or 49-43% (assuming Libertarian candidate Robert Sarvis maintains the 8% he has in the WashPo poll.)
Voters are more likely to show up at the polls on Election Day to vote FOR their candidate than they are to go and vote against someone, especially when the alternative isn’t much more palatable in their eyes. Positive voter intensity remains the edge for Cuccinelli. In a low turnout election like this one promises to be, that can make for some very surprising upsets.