If the Democrats win the Virginia election, they should thank Donald Trump

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""Donald Trump"" – Google News

But in Virginia, and even at the national level at the general congressional vote, the Democrats are holding onto small margins of margin of error.

Why? In part, it could be because former President Donald Trump is unusually present to an out-of-office politician and is just as – if not more – unpopular than Biden. You can follow the Trump dynamics in real time on the election campaign. Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe has repeatedly attempted to link Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin to the former president in both his speeches and advertisements. Youngkin walks a fine line, leaning on Trump’s rhetoric to increase Republican turnout, but also distances himself from certain issues and plays hyperlocal issues to appeal to the middle of the electorate.

In less than two weeks until election day, McAuliffe’s plan could work. McAuliffe has a nominal lead of around 2 to 3 points over Youngkin in a current survey average. Looking back at more than 240 gubernatorial polls with polls since 1998, a head start of this size has lasted about 70% of the time in the last three weeks of the campaign. (Hillary Clinton had similar odds based on the 2016 primary polls.)

If the polls were spot on, McAuliffe would significantly undercut Biden’s win last year and current Governor Ralph Northam’s win in the 2017 Governor’s Race. They won with 10 or 9 points. The decline in McAuliffe’s position compared to other Democrats should come as no surprise, as Biden’s net state approval averaged around -2 points in recent polls.

Still, a head start is a head start, and McAuliffe beats Biden’s net popularity rating by a little less than 5 points.

The same polls show that Trump is deeply unpopular in the state. A Fox News poll published last week found that its net favorable rating (cheap – bad) was -9 points for likely voters and -18 points for registered voters. Trump is less popular than McAuliffe or Youngkin, both of whom had positive net favoritism ratings among likely voters in Fox News’ poll.

This seems to play a role.

You can see how closely feelings about Trump and the election decision match by looking at the Fox News poll crosstabs. On a scale from -1 to +1, the correlation between Trump’s unfavorable rating and McAuliffe’s reputation in horse racing across demographic groups was over +0.98. This kind of correlation between the popularity of an absent politician and the choice of votes is seldom found. It’s almost the same as Biden’s popularity and voting decision (over +0.99 correlation).

In fact, a Virginia CBS News / YouGov poll shows how motivating Trump is when it comes to voting for voters. A majority of likely voters (51%) said feelings toward Trump were very motivating. That’s basically the same as the 48% who said the same about their feelings towards Biden. Independent polls from a Monmouth University poll in August showed that roughly the same proportion of voters in Virginia said Trump was a major factor in their 2021 vote as it was in 2017.

We see that nationwide too. Trump continues to cast a shadow in ways that I’m not sure we fully appreciate.

For the past week, Trump even slightly leads Biden in the number of people who search for them on Google. That same week, during Trump’s presidency, he led former President Barack Obama in searches with a ratio of almost 9: 1. And that same week, in the Obama’s presidency, Obama led former President George W. Bush in searches with a ratio of over 9: 1. Being in the spotlight for Trump is likely to do more harm to Republicans than it will help. Trump had a net favorable rating of -13 points in a Quinnipiac University poll this week. Bidens was -12 points in the same poll. Other polls put Biden’s net popularity ratings in a slightly better, if still negative, position.

An incumbent president in negative territory on his net popularity rating would normally mean doom for the president’s party at halftime. I would still bet that it does.

But for now, the Democrats are maintaining a low single-digit lead on the general congressional vote. That’s not much different from her 3-point victory in the House of Representatives referendum in 2020.

Of course we just have to wait and see how things go from here. If Youngkin wins a victory in Virginia, it will be hard for people to argue that Trump is hurting Republicans so much.

On the other hand, if McAuliffe wins, it will likely lead to much debate over whether it is good for Republicans to keep Trump on the political stage.

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