Poll: Va. governor's race in dead heat

The Democratic and Republican nominees for Virginia governor are polling neck and neck with four months to go in the campaign, according to a poll released Monday.

A new Monmouth University poll found that Democrat Ralph Northam and Republican Ed Gillespie are tied, with both candidates polling at 44 percent. Libertarian candidate Cliff Hyra garnered 3 percent, while 9 percent of respondents were undecided.

Both major party nominees have strong support from their base, but independents are narrowly backing Gillespie over Northam, 42 to 38 percent.

ADVERTISEMENTThe survey notes that President Trump is having an impact on the statewide election, though he’s not the top issues for most voters in Virginia. Forty percent of voters say the president is either a major or minor factor in determining who they’ll vote for in November’s gubernatorial race.

Trump lost Virginia to Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonWhite House accuses Biden of pushing ‘conspiracy theories’ with Trump election claim Biden courts younger voters — who have been a weakness Trayvon Martin’s mother Sybrina Fulton qualifies to run for county commissioner in Florida MORE by 5 points in 2016. His approval rating among likely voters in the state is 37 percent, while 57 percent disapprove.

“A small but crucial portion of Northam’s support is coming from voters who are primarily anti-Trump. Unless one of the candidates breaks out with a clear advantage on Virginia-centric issues, the president could wind up as a decisive factor in the outcome,” said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute.

But if the president didn’t impact voters’ decisions, Gillespie would actually have a small lead over Northam at this point.

Ninety-nine percent of Gillespie voters would still stick with him if Trump wasn’t a factor. That’s compared to 88 percent of Northam voters who would still vote for him.

In this scenario, Gillespie would have a 45 to 40 percent lead, with 12 percent undecided. 

“National pundits like to paint Virginia gubernatorial races as referenda on whichever president was just elected and they are almost always wrong. 2017 may turn out to be the first time you can credibly draw a direct link between the Oval Office and the race for governor.”

In the June primaries, Northam cruised to victory in a hotly contested primary, while Gillespie won the nomination only narrowly after an unexpectedly tough challenge.

While the general election polling indicates a tight race, voter enthusiasm was on the Democrats’ side during the primaries, which is something Northam’s campaign will need to replicate in November. A total of 542,410 Virginia Democrats voted in their party’s primary, compared with 365,559 votes cast in the Republican primary.

The historical trends are also on the Democrats’ side. The party out of power in the White House has won the Virginia governor’s mansion in every election since 1977, with the exception of Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s 2013 win.

The poll was conducted from July 20 to 23 and surveyed 502 likely voters via phone. The margin of error was 4.4 percentage points.

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