Brat and Spanberger

As the race in the onetime GOP stronghold is in its final week, Republican Dave Brat (R) and Democrat Abigail Spanberger are on a statistical tie in Virginia’s 7th Congressional District, according to a survey released by the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University on Monday.

The poll revealed that 45 percent of likely voters are in favor of Brat and Spanberger has 46 percent in her kitty. Joseph Waltopn, Libertarian candidate has 4 percent of support, and the remaining 3 percent were undecided.

Spnaberger’s lead is wider, she could benefit from a 16-point “enthusiasm gap,” with 78 percent of Democrats “very enthusiastic” about voting, compared with 62 percent of Republicans who feel that way about Brat.

Brat, a former Randolph-Macon College economics professor, has strong challenger in front of him this year in the form of Spanberger, who is a former federal law enforcement agent and CIA operative whose résumé may appeal to swing voters and moderate Republicans turned off by President Trump.

Four years ago, Brat won the seat over then the House majority leader Eric Cantor. Two years later, Brat enjoyed a 15-point reelection win.

Brat and Spanberger are competing to represent the district that is a mix of Richmond suburbs and rural areas stretching from Culpeper to Nottoway County. Trump, who is popular in rural areas, has hugely supported and endorsed Brat.

Over the year, Republican strength in the district has been decreasing. The victory margins are going down since 2012, when presidential candidate Mitt Romney won the 7th District by 11 percentage points and Trump won it by just six points in 2016. Republican Ed Gillespie beat Democrat Ralph Northam in the 2017 governor’s election by less than four points.

“The fact that a district like the 7th is competitive is strong evidence that 2018 should produce a strong midterm effect that benefits Democrats,” said Rachel Bitecofer, assistant director of the Wason Center. “This district has a significant structural advantage for Republicans. But that advantage can be overcome with strong turnout in the Richmond suburbs. Democratic turnout will determine which candidate prevails on Election Day.”

The district is closely divided on Trump, 51 percent disapprove of Trump’s work, while 47 percent approve it, as found by the poll. Among these voters, 43 percent strongly disapprove the performance of the president and only 30 percent approve it.

The poll also suggested that Democrats are more supportive of Spanberger than Republicans are of Brat. A large gender gap was also revealed by the poll, with men favoring Brat by 15 points (52 percent to 37 percent) and women backing Spanberger by 14 points (53 percent to 39 percent).

The poll was conducted on October 18-27 via landlines and mobile phones. It is based on 871 interviews of registered 7th District voters who have voted in at least two of the past four elections or who were new voters to Virginia in 2017.

The survey has margin of error of plus or minus 4.2 percentage points. The model based on “committed” voters has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.

The electoral war between Brat and Spanberger would be over after the November 6 elections.

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