Virginia weighs Terry McAuliffe's fate

As the polls prepare to close in Virginia's Democratic primary, the weather turns ugly.


Mike Madden
June 10, 2009 1:10AM (UTC)

Is it possible that Creigh Deeds and his campaign staff spent the night before election day in Virginia's Democratic gubernatorial primary sacrificing goats -- or maybe hokies, if they wanted to go with a more state-appropriate critter -- to the weather gods?

That might be the only way to account for the massive thunderstorms that rolled through Washington's northern Virginia suburbs twice today -- during the morning rush hour, and then, after a period of sun, during the evening rush hour. The rain can't have been good for turnout in the primary, which means it can't have been good for Terry McAuliffe or Brian Moran, the northern Virginia-based rivals Deeds is hoping to knock off in a come-from-behind win tonight.

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Anecdotal reports indicated few voters anywhere in the state were showing up. McAuliffe aides said this afternoon they expected 200,000 or 250,000 ballots to be cast by the time the polls close, at 7 p.m. EDT. That's at the very low end of the range they were predicting a month ago, and it shows how McAuliffe's momentum and expectations have collapsed over the race's closing weeks. Deeds, meanwhile, has surged, with some polls showing he jumped from 14 points behind McAuliffe to 14 points ahead of him. (Moran appears to be languishing in third place in just about every survey.)

The conventional wisdom going into the primary was that McAuliffe had the best get-out-the-vote operation of the three candidates, and it geared up into overdrive as the day went on. "Have you voted yet?" a text message sent out this morning asked McAuliffe supporters. "Reply VOTED if you have, and NO if you haven't. This will be extremely close, so tell everyone you know to vote 4 Terry. Txt STOP to STOP." A few hours later, the campaign -- in a move that seemed a little desperate -- sent out the results of only one night of a rolling tracking poll; allegedly, the survey in the field last night had McAuliffe and Deeds tied at 33 percent, and Moran at 21. But since it only sampled 200 people, the margin of error would have been off the charts. Most pollsters say one-night samples are unreliable. (Meanwhile, Deeds aides claimed turnout in his geographic base -- the south and southwest of the state -- was high. But a McAuliffe advisor pointed out that it poured in Bath County, Deeds's home turf, this morning, too.)

Check back here later tonight for the results.


Mike Madden

Mike Madden is Salon's Washington correspondent. A complete listing of his articles is here. Follow him on Twitter here.

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