VA-Gov: Crazy Squiggly Lines
I haven't been all that plugged in to either of the two gubernatorial races this year, in New Jersey or Virginia, but the primary for the latter is on Tuesday, and the poll numbers have really bounced around on the Democratic side. You basically have the 3 candidates, former state Sen. Creigh Deeds, former DNC Chair Terry McAuliffe, and House of Delegates member Brian Moran all within the margin of error and basically tied. McAuliffe surged about a month ago but has dropped like a stone, and Deeds was nowhere a month ago, started running a bunch of ads and now leads in some polls. Moran's always been right there and reportedly has the best ground game.
As Nate Silver says, the dynamic does resemble Iowa 2004:
This was the polling situation in the run-up to the 2004 Iowa Democratic Caucus, with the last data point representing the actual results. As you can see, while it was clear from the polling that Howard Dean was losing momentum and John Kerry and John Edwards were gaining it, the polling far underestimated the magnitude of the momentum, and Dean wound up losing to Kerry by 19 points.
These kind of dramatic late swings happen more often in primaries than in general elections, and more often in multi-candidate fields than in two-candidate ones. I don't want to say they're always dispositive, because I haven't studied the issue systematically enough. Of note is that at least one hot-off-the-presses poll (from SurveyUSA) still has McAuliffe ahead by 6 points. But overall, and particularly in consideration of the fact that is Terry McAluiffe, who started out with the biggest warchest and the most name recognition, it's hard to see what he's going to do to halt his slide [...]
My armchair assessment is that the probabilities here are something like Deeds 60-70%, McAuliffe 20-30%, and Moran 10-20%. Like Dean, McAuliffe wears his emotions on his sleeve, and if he were to lose, the concession speech should be something to watch.
Maybe he'll talk about running for Governor in other states and end with a YEEARGHHH!
Whoever wins, it will be difficult to beat the Republican, Attorney General Bob McDonell, simply because he has not been bruised by a primary and Virginia has had two Democrats in the Governor's mansion in a row. If the winner of this primary gathers enough momentum to win in November, then you really can color Virginia blue.