In August, the SurveyUSA poll projected that African American voters would make up 17% of the electorate -- a wildly optimistic assumption given the fact that only Doug Wilder has generated that kind of turnout among African American voters (he got 17% to Warner's 15%). By this past weekend's poll, the portion of the turnout projected to be made up of African Americans had fallen to 13%.
The good news for Kaine is that, from the poll conducted August 6-8 to the poll conducted November 04-06, his winning margin went up even as the projected proportion of black voters fell -- from 5 points behind in the first week in August to 9 points ahead in the calls made November 04-06. Kilgore's support among African American voters, consistent with that garnered by Gilmore and Allen -- in the range of 16-18%, remained static while Kaine's rose from a low of 70% to a high of 79%.
The bad news for Kaine in the updated SurveyUSA numbers published tonight is that the momentum seems to be moving in Kilgore's direction. Averaging calls made Saturday, Sunday and Monday, SurveyUSA now projects Kaine as having a lead of only 5%. Here's what SurveyUSA reported tonight about the polling trends over the weekend:
Interviews in the Virginia governor's race conducted by SurveyUSA tonight Monday 11/7 (but before President Bush appeared in Richmond) show a swing back towards Republican candidate Jerry Kilgore, causing SurveyUSA to now update its final projection in the Virginia Governor's Contest. This morning, based on interviews conducted Friday, Saturday and Sunday (11/4/05 through 11/6/05), SurveyUSA released data that showed Democrat Tim Kaine 9 points ahead of Kilgore. However, because of intra-day volatility in that data, SurveyUSA continued to poll throughout the afternoon and evening today Monday 11/7. When interviews from the most recent 3 days -- Saturday, Sunday and today Monday -- are averaged, Kaine's lead shrinks now to 5 points. When interviews from just the past two days -- Sunday and today Monday -- are averaged, the contest is closer yet. When interviews from Monday only are considered, the contest is tied, but the Margin of Sampling error from just the one day of interviewing is high enough, and the results aberrant enough, that SurveyUSA is uncomfortable reporting just Monday-only data. For the record, SurveyUSA goes into the clubhouse with its final projection (based on Saturday, Sunday and Monday polling): Kaine 50%, Kilgore 45%. A closer outcome still is possible.
Turnout clearly remains key, and the SurveyUSA data reveal three key issues that, in addition to the pro-Kilgore momentum, could render Kaine's projected margin illusory.
First, there appears to be a general lack of enthusiasm in the African American community for Kaine's candidacy. African American voters could make up as little as 10% of the electorate.
Second, to ensure victory, Kaine needs to get closer to the 90% of the African American vote that Warner received.
Third, much of Kaine's projected lead is reflected in the rising gender gap. In August, Kaine held a lead among women of only 3%. In the most recent poll, his lead among women had risen to 16%. But, turnout rates for women voters in Virginia are notoriously low -- 33rd out of the 50 states. It's not clear that Kaine's candidacy has the emotional torque necessary to get women to the polls tomorrow, particularly in NOVA, where multi-tasking women need a compelling reason to get them to the polls.
With Republicans using dirty tricks to depress turnout, particularly among Democratic women (e.g., calls using Kaine's voice and negative literature made to look like it came from Potts), Kaine will need the best GOTV program ever mounted by a Democratic candidate in Virginia to win tomorrow.