So much for the VA-05 firewall

posted at 2:37 pm on October 29, 2010 by Ed Morrissey

Democrats have to take a stand somewhere for their midterm firewall in the House, and according to Politico, they have dug the trench in Virginia’s 5th CD.   The DCCC has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to save Tom Perriello from defeat, and over the last two weeks independent groups have spent $1.6 million, mainly attacking Perriello’s opponent, Robert Hurt.  And a Very Special Guest Star will make an appearance in the district this weekend, too:

No one can say they didn’t try to save Tom Perriello.

In the last days of the 2010 campaign, the first-term Virginia congressman’s reelection bid has become a rallying point for Democrats nationwide, as party leaders and left-leaning interest groups scramble to ensure that at least one vulnerable liberal lawmaker is left standing after Nov. 2.

President Barack Obama is headed to Charlottesville, the populous college town at the heart of Perriello’s district, to drum up support for him on Friday. Obama praised Perriello during a mid-October rally in Washington, calling him a “great guy” who has taken risky votes and “just done what’s right.” The president talked about him again on “The Daily Show” Wednesday night. …

At least a half-dozen pro-Democratic groups have spent six-figure sums over that time period, and four – the League of Conservation Voters, the Sierra Club, the National Education Association and the America’s Families First Action Fund – each have put in more than a quarter-million dollars.

“I’ve never seen anything like it, ever,” said University of Virginia professor Larry Sabato, who’s one of Perriello’s constituents. “You can’t turn on the television without seeing 10 ads in a row, and I would say seven are for Perriello.”

How has the blitz fared?  Has the firewall held?  According to Survey USA, it isn’t even close:

Democrats declare “all in” in Virginia’s 5th Congressional District, where, 5 days until votes are counted and 24 hours until Barack Obama rides to the rescue, you can argue the case both ways: in favor of a stunning upset for incumbent Democrat Tom Perriello, who has trailed in every pre-election poll this cycle, or, a lot of fuss for no reason, about a district that was bound to go Republican in 2010, even though all the King’s horses and all the King’s men tried to put Perriello back together again.

Of the handful of Virginia voters who tell SurveyUSA they have already voted, Perriello has a big advantage. Maybe his supporters are singularly motivated, and those who have not yet voted are “all talk.” SurveyUSA asks the Virginians who have not yet voted how likely they are to vote on a 1 to 10 scale, and in this contest, SurveyUSA accepts ’9′ and ’10′ answers as ‘likely voters.’ It turns out the ’9′ likely-voters back the Democrat Perriello, by a lot. More good news for the Democrat. But: the ’10′ likely voters, the ones who are exceptionally charged up, the ones who are rarin’ to go, back the Republican Robert Hurt. When SurveyUSA combines the small group of Virginians who have already voted, and the likely-to-vote 9′s with the likely-to-vote 10′s, the blended result is, Hurt 51%, Perriello 43%, a new Republican seat in the House. Can President Obama siphon 10 percent of Hurt’s supporters to Perriello, or twice the number of undecided voters to Perriello, which is what it would take to hold this one seat symbolically for the Democrats? We’ll know on Tuesday.

Women are moving slightly to the Democrat in this 5th and final tracking poll for WDBJ-TV, but men are moving to the Republican. Independents are not budging; they break 2:1 Republican. Perriello has gained ground among more affluent voters, where he still trails, has effectively caught Hurt among lower-income voters, and has leapfrogged Hurt among voters age 50 to 64.

Without question, the big push moved the needle a little in the district; Hurt had been leading by double digits a few weeks ago.  But sitting eight points back with four days to go is not exactly a worthwhile investment of last-minute campaign funds.  This is an R+5 district, although it has tended to elect Democrats for most of the last several decades.  Perriello is a freshman who normally wouldn’t have the importance to warrant a presidential rescue (for whatever that’s worth in VA-05), nor a dollar dump amounting to millions of dollars.

So why has Perriello soaked up the resources, rather than a Democrat with a narrower gap to close in the polls, or one with more importance to leadership?  To some extent, it’s loyalty.  As Politico notes, Perriello took “suicidal” votes to support ObamaCare and especially cap-and-trade, which would deliver a huge blow to the coal economy in Virginia.  Of course, that loyalty to the Obama agenda cuts both ways, and Hurt has been running ads blasting him for it as a rubber stamp for Obama and Nancy Pelosi, an impression that Obamas’ visit over the weekend will only reinforce.   Democrats are gambling that the visit will boost voter turnout:

In a memo released this week, Republican pollster Glen Bolger detailed just how risky an Obama visit might be for Perriello: Fifty-four percent of voters in the district disapprove of his performance as president, according to Bolger’s polling, versus 44 percent who approve. The deficit is even wider among white voters: 66 percent disapprove of the president, compared with 32 percent who approve.

Democrats are looking at a different set of numbers. The same poll from Bolger’s firm, Public Opinion Strategies, showed that Obama retains pockets of support in the district, with 93 percent approval from African-American voters and a 51 percent approval rating in relatively liberal Charlottesville.

So the other side of the argument is this: Voters who intensely dislike Obama might vote against Perriello anyway, so why not try to max out Democratic turnout by revving up the base?

If that was really the case, then why is the President’s team keeping Obama out of places like Wisconsin, Kentucky, and nearby West Virginia, where Democrats in the Senate are running even closer than Perriello to Hurt?  This is more Hail Mary than firewall.  The White House must figure that this race is so lost that a last-minute appearance can’t possibly do any more harm, and will make it look as though Obama rewards loyalty to his agenda.

That doesn’t mean that Hurt can sit back and rest, nor is he.  His website is using the Obama visit for last-minute fundraising.  They may be looking at final-hours ads featuring a presidential hug or two to underscore their point about Perriello being a vote for the radical Obama/Pelosi agenda.


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