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HomePollsWill Terry McAuliffe Supporting War On Coal Be A Game-Changer?

Will Terry McAuliffe Supporting War On Coal Be A Game-Changer?

Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic nominee in the highly anticipated 2013 Virginia governor’s race, has made a risky move endorsing Obama’s war on coal. Endorsing the Obama’s administration’s new regulations on coal was a brazen — and somewhat arrogant — political move, considering his Cuccinelli has cut his one-time double digit- lead into a single-digit lead in a purple state with deep ties to coal mining.

Democrat Terry McAuliffe, who is known nationally as a Clinton fundraiser and insider, declared his support for the “war on coal” Tuesday at a campaign stop in northern Virginia, an area he must rack up a healthy in order to win.

“I support what we need to do to obviously protect our air and our water,” he said. The comment comes about two weeks after the Environmental Protection Agency issued the tighter regulations and after months of being pressed to take a position on what is a major election issue.

The new anti-coal regulations would limit the amount of carbon that new gas and coal-firing electric power plants can put out, which would make opening one almost financially impossible.

Republican nominee Ken Cuccinelli jumped all over the opportunity to change the narrative — which is one pushed by a collaborating media at the behest of the Democratic Party — in an unprecedented effort to paint Cuccinelli as an extremist on social issues and unacceptable to women voters in Northern Virginia suburbs.

At a Saturday night fundraiser also attended by Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz for the nonprofit Family Foundation he said, “The war on coal in Virginia is a war on our poor.” The Family Foundation is the state’s best-known lobby for socially conservative legislation.

The regulations will drastically reduce the demand for coal from mining regions such as southwestern Virginia – which is typically a conservative bastion, along with the state’s Tidewater-Newport News area that  is home to many military and retired military residents. However, most polling has underscored the challenge that faces Ken Cuccinelli. Consider the table below, along with People’s Pundit Daily rating this race “Leans Democratic.

Poll Date Sample McAuliffe (D) Cuccinelli (R) Spread
PPD Average 9/15 – 9/30 43.9 38.6 McAuliffe +5.3
Emerson College* 9/26 – 9/30 519 RV 43 38 McAuliffe +5
Hampton University 9/25 – 9/29 800 LV 44 40 McAuliffe +4
Univ. of Mary Washington* 9/25 – 9/29 559 LV 42 35 McAuliffe +7
Rasmussen Reports* 9/23 – 9/23 1050 LV 44 38 McAuliffe +6
Washington Post 9/19 – 9/22 562 LV 49 44 McAuliffe +5
NBC4/NBC News/Marist* 9/17 – 9/19 546 LV 43 38 McAuliffe +5
Harper (R)* 9/15 – 9/16 779 LV 42 37 McAuliffe +5

McAuliffe, also the former head of the Democratic National Committee, leads the race by 5.3 percent, according to the monthly average of polling by People’s Pundit Daily. Ken Cuccinelli spent the month of September chopping McAuliffe’s lead in half, from just under 11 percent to the 5.3 percent it is at now.

But polling, despite what Virginia-based pundit Crystal Ball has claimed, has clearly showed that Sarvis — the libertarian independent candidate — is pulling most of his 9 or so percent support from southern Virginia, both in the western and eastern parts of the South. Democrats’ recent victories in the swing state has been possible by their focus on northern Virginia, a liberal-voting part of the state that borders Washington and has grown rapidly in recent years in both size and population.

Dave “Mudcat” Saunders, a Democratic consultant who doesn’t support McAuliffe, said McAuliffe was in bad shape in southwestern Virginia before his announcement and still is. But the question is two-fold, beyond the superficial implication made by Saunders.

First, will McAuliffe’s move be so unappealing to voters in southwestern and southeastern Virginia that they conclude it more prudent to put their support behind the candidate who has the best chance of beating Terry McAuliffe? Larry Sabato, and the rest of the gang at Crystal Ball, were right in their historical analysis surrounding third-party candidates, because the data show their support evaporates as the election draws near.

The pattern does not seem to be holding true this cycle, but perhaps a development of this nature has the potential to put Virginian voters back on their historical path, resulting in an abandonment of Sarvis, who is disproportionately taking support Cuccinelli desperately needs to win.

Second, an anti-coal policy could very well cause suburban women concerned about the economy and cost of living increases — as well as others in northern Virginia suburbs — to at least take a second look at Ken Cuccinelli. In a race that could come down to a razor-thin margin of victory, such considerations cannot be discounted. Turnout is expected to be very low and McAuliffe is an unappealing candidate to urban Obama voters. Most polling shows Cuccinelli pulling anywhere from 15 percent to 25 percent of black voters way from Terry McAuliffe. Couple these considerations with Cuccinelli’s record of outperforming his polling support, and an upset is very likely.

People’s Pundit Daily will be leaving this race – for now – with a rating “Leans Democratic.” However, we will be watching very closely to gauge the impact of this development, as well as the impact of the government shutdown. The other key issue in the contest is Obamacare.

Cuccinelli was the first state attorney general in the nation to sue the federal government, claiming the individual mandate violated the the U.S. Constitution. Cuccinelli may just join the rest of America as the latest casualty of Chief Justice Roberts’ cowardly decision to switch his vote last minute, because he was “wobbly” on what the decision would do to the court’s reputation. Ironic, isn’t it?

We shall have to wait and see, but for now you can view our interactive ratings map with full analysis by clicking here.

Written by

Rich, the People's Pundit, is the Data Journalism Editor at PPD and Director of the PPD Election Projection Model. He is also the Director of Big Data Poll, and author of "Our Virtuous Republic: The Forgotten Clause in the American Social Contract."

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