Monday, November 3, 2014

Warner will hang on, despite Puckettgate

There's no question that Mark Warner screwed up big time by injecting himself into the struggle over State Sen. Phil Puckett's resignation.

But it doesn't seem likely that it will cost him his Senate seat tomorrow.

Averaging the last two independent polls in the race, puts Warner ahead with 48% of the vote to Republican Ed Gillespie's 38% and Libertarian Robert Sarvis' 4%. That leaves 10% undecided, which is a figure I very much doubt.

It doesn't look, from this vantage point, like anybody on either side is very engaged in this, Virginia's off-off year election, except rabid partisans.

That means voters will probably go with who they know. They know Warner. They don't know Gillespie.

My prediction? Warner 52%, Gillespie 44%, Sarvis 4%.

That's a closer election than Warner anticipated going into this year. I don't think there's any question that his involvement in the Puckett matter -- he was trying talk a Democratic state senator from resigning and throwing the majority in the Senate to the Republicans, which meant that a Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act was dead -- has damaged Warner's brand. Republicans reportedly offered Sen. Phil Puckett a possible seat on the the Tobacco Commission and confirmation of his daughter as a judge. Warner, one of  a cadre of Democrats trying to keep Puckett from resigning, reportedly mentioned that Puckett's daughter might be a candidate for a federal judgeship.

State Republicans, stung by heir own ethic scandals involving Gov. Bob McDonnell, former Del. Phil Hamilton and current Del. Terry Kilgore, who is credited/blamed with offering Puckett inducements to resign, jumped all over Warner's role in Puckettgate -- as they should have. 

 Republicans nationally are pushing to take back the Senate -- Warner's seat was not one they really targeted. He was seen as a strong, popular incumbent  and they had enough opportunities to pick up seats that they could take control without winning Warner's seat.

And, I think they will. But, whoever wins the Senate, it will be by a very small margin. Probably continuing the gridlock we've been seeing in Washington for at least the last six years.

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