VA Gov Race Shocker: McAuliffe over Cuccinelli by 4 pts, Libertarian Sarvis at 9%


A new Quinnipiac Poll about the governor's race in Virginia shows an immense tightening between Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe and Republican Ken Cuccinelli. And then there's the Libertarian Party's Robert Sarvis:

The Virginia governor's race is going down to the wire with Democrat Terry McAuliffe clinging to a slight 45—41 percent likely voter lead over Republican State Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, and 9 percent for Libertarian Party candidate Robert Sarvis, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today. 

This compares to the results of an October 23 survey by the independent Quinnipiac University, showing McAuliffe up 46—39 percent, with Sarvis at 10 percent. 

Today's survey shows that if Sarvis were not in the race, McAuliffe would have 47 percent to 45 percent for Cuccinelli, too close to call. 

 In the three-way matchup, 4 percent of likely voters remain undecided and 7 percent of those who name a candidate say there's a "good chance" they will change their mind in the next six days. 

More here.

What a difference a couple of weeks—and possibly, a campaign swing by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) for Cuccinelli—makes. McAuliffe had been up by the high double digits at various points. So get ready for epic bitching and moaning from Republicans and possibly Democrats too about how these goddamned third-party candidates and weirdo libertarians are screwing up the machinery of democracy. Which is a load of bunk.

Read Brian Doherty's interview with Libertarian candidate Sarvis, a former Republican whose slogan for the state is "open-minded and open for business". Here's a snippet:

Reason: Why are you running outside the Republican Party now?

Sarvis: I got sick of the broken promises of Republicans on economic policy. In Virginia in 2009 the Republicans won the governorship and lieutenant governorship and in 2011 they achieved an effective majority in the state Senate—it's a tie but the lieutenant governor is the tiebreaker. [The Republicans] had the House, Senate and governor's office and we didn't get tax reform, didn't get regulatory reform, didn't get school choice, that was frustrating. [The Party's] social policy took a rightward direction and the GOP in Virginia is very socially conservative. I no longer really cared to invest in the GOP.

In a column for Time.com yesterday, I discussed the new 2013 American Values Survey, which as titled "In Search of Libertarians" and Rand Paul's recent campaign swing in Virginia. Here's part of that:

Ken Cuccinelli has called for reinstating sodomy laws struck down by the Supreme Court and is not simply against gay marriage but declared in 2009 that "homosexual acts are wrong and should not be accomodated in government policy." While evangelicals and even Tea Party types might rally around such notions, there's just no way to spin such positions as in any way, shape, or form libertarian. Yet Cuccinelli, the Old Dominion's current attorney general, insists that he is "indisputably the strongest liberty candidate ever elected statewide in Virginia in my lifetime" and Paul has critiqued Cuccinelli's opponent and Libertarian Party gubernatorial candidate Robert Sarvis for suggesting new forms of taxation. "Not a very libertarian idea," sniffs Paul.

With the race so tight—and Sarvis apparently pulling far more than the margin of error in the Quinnipiac Poll—expect to hear more and more howls from Republicans that the Libertarian is playing spoiler because c'mon, really, we all know Libertarians should really vote for Republicans, right? I mean, nobody really believes that, say, marriage equality or tolerance of alternative lifestyles matters more than a middling record on economic policy and promises to cut taxes and all that, know what I mean?

The simple fact is—and this is really the point of my Time column—that libertarians are a reasonably predictable bunch of people who are happy to vote for candidates who defend and promote what we at Reason call "Free Minds and Free Markets": that is, shrinking the size, scope, and spending of government across all areas of human activity. If the Republicans (or Democrats, for that matter) want to win the libertarian vote, all they have to do is embrace such a worldview. It's not complicated (and the fact that Rand Paul goes a very long way toward doing that explains why he is popular among libertarians and less likely among mainstream conservatives, who explicitly worry about his libertarian tendencies).

But the idea that Sarvis just might cost Cuccinelli an election against one of the great crony capitalists of our age is just bullshit. It's Cuccinelli that's alienated libertarian-minded voters (like George Will!) through his bizarre and intolerant views on sexuality and a range of other matters. As Reason's Scott Shackford writes

It's problematic for anybody to treat voters as though they are there to serve a party's candidate and not the other way around. If I were a Virginia voter, I would appreciate…efforts to make a libertarian case for Cuccinelli – it is certainly worth nothing the various intersections. But I don't appreciate when pundits, analysts, commentary writers, or what-have-you attempt to tell me I should care less about some issues I care deeply about and instead care more about other issues (which generally just so happen the pundit also cares deeply about).

As a gay libertarian, I get this from both sides. I've been told I should vote for economic illiterates on the left because they support gay issues (even though I actually don't support some of these issues, but that's a whole other fight).