This is Terry McAuliffe’s Race to Lose

With only four weeks remaining before the Virginia primaries for the House of Delegates and statewide contests, the primary for Governor has become a dead race. Democrat Terry McAuliffe’s campaign is richer than Croesus, he holds vast name recognition, and has gotten the coveted endorsement from the Washington Post. His odds are only bolstered by the fact that the field against him has not consolidated in any way shape or form. The return of the Mack is on the horizon.

(Photo Courtesy: Kate Wellington/Flickr)

The only way McAuliffe could feasibly lose this primary is if he self-sabotages in a manner equivalent to Ralph Northam’s February 2019 press conference when he nearly moonwalked on national television in the wake of his now-infamous blackface scandal. It doesn’t necessarily have to be self-inflicted, but it would have to be more than a run-of-the-mill blunder; it would have to be a fatality. As Ludwig Wittgenstein once said, “For a blunder, that is too big,” and it would take much more than a blunder for McAuliffe to face a reckoning that shatters his public persona and incinerates his rapport with Democratic voters à la Northam– and that is what it would take for Terry McAuliffe to lose this race.

Though we are quite certain of his victory at the moment, it’s still too early to say with equal confidence what share of the vote he can hope to earn. McAuliffe could very well be on his way to getting an outright majority of the vote, but at the present moment it appears more likely that he wins with a plurality. The polls thus far are likely underestimating all of the non-McAuliffe candidates in the race; recent results have shown that Black candidates currently tend to overperform in Democratic primaries. The young voter demographic, which consistently skews more toward progressive candidates than the generations before them, may also be underestimated by the polls conducted thus far. 

After McAuliffe wins (barring self-sabotage or a damaging opposition research dump), the myriad of candidates who have yet to consolidate will inevitably have to answer some difficult questions: Was staying in the race worth it? Could they have endorsed someone else to prevent McAuliffe from becoming the nominee when they realized that their own campaign was running on fumes? 

Too little, too late. The only remaining site of competition in the statewide primaries in June will be the races for Lieutenant Governor and Attorney General. With McAuliffe a near-certain lock for the nomination, these races will be critical to the Democrats’ success in the general. Virginia Democrats would loathe to nominate an all-Northern Virginia ticket, lest a regionally-driven campaign by the Virginia GOP usurp their chances. Democrats are fighting tooth-and-nail to hold the House of Delegates, and a concerted effort on behalf of Republicans to enhance ticket-splitting for the down-ballot races would effectively put the Dems out of business.

The Republicans have nominated Glenn Youngkin (R-McLean), a former Carlyle Group CEO, who has pledged to self-finance his campaign so that the ticket can compete with the money machine that is Terry McAuliffe. As of March 31st, Youngkin had raised $7,650,234, while McAuliffe had raised an astounding $9,947,149 for his campaign. Needless to say, the big boys are coming with the big bucks. New campaign finance reports will be released for the April 1st-May 31st period by June 2nd. The race has been Lean Democratic in our ratings for months now, and we will continue to keep it there with the recent Youngkin nomination.