By Jim Ellis
June 9, 2017 — According to his internal polling, former US Rep. Tom Perriello (D-Charlottesville) has caught Virginia Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam as the two head into next Tuesday’s gubernatorial primary election.
Wednesday, the Perriello camp released a series of internal Haystaq DNA surveys that portend the former congressman now maintains a slight edge over Northam, 36.8 to 36.0 percent, with the undecideds overwhelmingly breaking to their candidate. (See Perriello ad below)
Though it appears their polling results are at odds with previous independent studies that project Lt. Gov. Northam to be holding a large, and in some cases double-digit, lead, the Perriello data progression acknowledges that their candidate was significantly behind at the beginning of May.
The Haystaq DNA release actually covers three polls conducted within the last five weeks. The firm developed a sampling pool of 2,000 respondents and began questioning them on May 2. The series ended with a third and final polling snapshot (June 1-6; 455 likely Virginia Democratic primary voters drawn from the original 2,000) that yielded the aforementioned dead-heat split.
The series’ results gain credibility for their projected ending scenario because their own earlier data also found Northam holding a large lead. In the Haystaq May 2 snapshot, derived from an unannounced sample segment but presumably consistent with the 455 number used for the final poll, Northam held a substantial 38.3 – 24.1 percent edge. During the May 17-23 period in their second snapshot poll, the Northam advantage slipped a bit, to 39.1 – 31.3 percent. This second study installment detected clear movement toward Perriello, but the Lt. Gov. still led well beyond the margin of polling error at a point three weeks from the election.
As the pollsters claim, in order to support their latest contention that shows Perriello not only closing the gap but also taking the smallest of leads, an overwhelming number of breaking undecideds, literally 90 percent of them, are moving toward Perriello.
While this type of percentage seems hard to accept, the polling progression trend is unmistakably moving toward Perriello and away from Northam. The fact that Haystaq was tracking with other pollsters in early May, and are now showing clear movement toward one candidate over a significant period of time lends further credibility to the their data conclusions.
If the closing trend pattern is accurately detected, we will be headed for a very close primary election contest come Tuesday night.
The prohibitive favorite for the Republican nomination, former national party chairman Ed Gillespie, waits in the wings to see whom he will face in the general election. One thing he can count on, and it should bring him positive dividends, is uncovering a path to paint the new Democratic nominee, whether it is Perriello or Northam, as coming from the extreme left. Both men have been on the airwaves moving as far left as possible in order to attract the ideological sector that is driven to vote in low turnout elections. Perriello went so far as featuring one closing ad with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) speaking on his behalf, with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I/D-VT) and former President Barack Obama all making laudatory comments.
Seeing the opening, Gillespie will attempt to exploit his opportunity by moving closer to the center in order to capture the important independent swing voter who has been more difficult for a Republican to convince as Virginia continues to trend more Democratic.
This is an important gubernatorial race from a national perspective because Virginia is a critical redistricting state, and the governor elected in 2017 will wield the veto pen over the post-census state legislative and congressional maps that the legislature will draw in 2021.