Last week’s poll from the University of Mary Washington showed incumbent Democrat U.S. Sen. Mark Warner holding a 10-point advantage over Ed Gillespie, 47%-37%, but below the 50% threshold. (Among the 6% who identify as Libertarian Robert Sarvis’s supporters, Warner only leads Gillespie 35%-34% so it appears he is drawing fairly evenly from the two candidates.) That same poll also shows the Right Track / Wrong Track numbers cratering with 64% of likely voters saying the country is on the wrong track with just 26% thinking things are heading in the right direction. Interestingly enough, that poll also shows that among current likely voters Romney voters outnumber Obama voters 48%-44%, a near reversal of the numbers from Sept. 2013. The partisan split of likely voters in this poll was 30% Democrat, 33% Republican and 34% independent. Of those independents who are likely to vote, Republican-leaners outnumber Democratic-leaners 50%-40%.
Since that poll was released, Mark Warner has been engulfed by #BRIBESTORM where he floated, among other things, a federal judicial appointment for the daughter of former state Sen. Phil Puckett (D) in exchange for Puckett staying in the Virginia State Senate and keeping it under Democratic control. As the state’s senior U.S. Senator, Warner would have a considerable say in who the president nominates for such vacancies on the federal bench. Just remember, former Gov. Bob McDonnell was convicted on multiple corruption charges where there was not as clear of a quid pro quo as there is in the case with Warner — you don’t resign and your daughter gets appointed to the federal bench.
What has to be extremely troubling for Mark Warner is that his last two internal campaign polls have shown his lead to be in free fall and that was before the Washington Post (I still can’t believe I’m writing that) broke #BRIBESTORM. According to anonymous sources close to Warner, his most recent poll only gave him a +4 lead over Gillespie, which is down from the +6 lead in his previous internal campaign poll (and that was down from a +10 lead in the poll before that, which corresponds with the MWU poll.)
Even more terrifying for Team Warner is the enthusiasm gap they are seeing. Warner’s camp counted on Northern Virginia turnout to serve as a firewall, but the implosion of John Foust’s campaign in VA-10 and an incredibly lazy and lackluster effort from Gerry Connelly in VA-11 has them worried they might be overestimating what they can harvest from Fairfax County.
There is a national wave forming for Republicans right now. Ed Gillespie may very well be in the right place at the right time. He needs to make these next three weeks count.