Lately, Virginia Republicans have been touting a Quinnipac poll which shows that only nine percentage points separate Mark Warner from his Republican challenger, Ed Gillespie. Although certainly positive news for the Gillespie campaign, which has previously been down by over twenty points, it is the only poll thus far that shows the race separated with single digits. To be fair, the race is getting closer, but not necessarily close yet; the Roanoke College poll several days before Quinnipac had Gillespie down by twenty and the PPP and CBS/New York Times polls since Quinnipac show Gillespie back by thirteen and twelve points respectively. Robert Sarvis, the Libertarian candidate, pulls somewhere between six and one percent.
As mentioned about a month ago, at that point in the race it seemed that the Ed Gillespie campaign had failed to capture the hearts and minds of the liberty wing of the GOP. Although attitudes can and do change, a fair number have expressed plans to either cast their ballots Robert Sarvis or stay home.
Now, it seems that Gillespie is facing even more challenges. Last night, one of my political Facebook friends indicated that she plans to write-in Shak Hill as her choice for U.S. Senate. Mr. Hill, as you may recall, sought the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate but was defeated by Gillespie at the convention. Apparently my friend is not alone as a website and a Facebook group have popped up encouraging voters to do likewise.
Although the number of fans of this Facebook group is quite small for a statewide effort, it could present an additional problem for a candidate some in the party view as a consummate political insider, close associate of Karl Rove, and not particularly friendly to the idea of limited government conservatism.
This information is fairly consistent with the CBS/New York Times poll, which shows that while 94% of Democrats plan on voting for Mark Warner, only 78% of Republicans will do likewise for Gillespie. The gap grows larger when considering ideology as 95% of self-identified liberals say they will cast their votes for Warner, 1% for Gillespie, and 0% for Sarvis while 75% of conservatives will go for Gillespie, a rather large 10% for Warner, and 2% for Sarvis.
So, are the polls and my personal observations correct? Is a significant portion of the Republican base revolting against the party’s nominee for Senate either through supporting Robert Sarvis, Shak Hill, or by doing nothing? And, if this is the case, what, if anything, does the Republican Party of Virginia and the Ed Gillespie campaign plan to do to counter this rift?