Commentary: YouGov Poll Shows Amanda Chase as the Front Runner for Virginia GOP Gubernatorial Nominee

by Shaun Kenney


There is nothing in this YouGov poll that should shock a soul.

First broken by Brandon Jarvis over at Virginia Scope, the YouGov poll (attached to the UK Economist) puts former DNC chairman and former Governor Terry McAuliffe in a commanding 43% lead over the rest of the Democrat field.

Let’s start with the Dems.

Literally every other challenger is in the single digits and in the same pack. At this point, it’s like watching Secretariat capture the Triple Crown. Feel free to insert T-Mac + booze joke here.

Where it gets a bit more sobering is when you look at the vote totals for the Republican field as the Republican Party of Virginia (RPV) continues to tussle over its convention — unassembled or otherwise.

For those who are looking to add these up?

  • State Senator Amanda Chase: (19/5) 24%
  • Former Speaker Kirk Cox: (6/1) 7%
  • Merle Rutledge: (5/0) 5%
  • Kurt Santini: (1/0) 1%
  • Pete Snyder: (10/3) 13%
  • Glenn Youngkin: (3/2) 5%
  • Sergio de la Pena: (1/0) 1%
  • State Senator Emmett Hanger (NC)

If all three Republican frontrunners — Snyder, Cox, and Youngkin — were to unite their base of support? They would all pull just about even with Chase at this point.

With these numbers, were the election to be held today? Chase would comfortably win any Republican primary nomination contest.

Before we go into the responses as to whether the candidates have actually started spending their money yet, let’s take a very quick trip into the time machine and review previous Virginia Republican nomination contests during the Trump era, where two roughly equal camps of the party squared off and went to war:

Hari-Kari vs. The “Not Crazy Party”

Former RNC chairman Ed Gillespie was expected to easily discard Prince William Chairman Corey Stewart’s campaign for the Republican nod for governor in a bid to run against Ralph Northam. Yet the race came down to a mere 5,000 votes as Gillespie barely edged Stewart 43-42 (with Frank Wagner garnering 14% of the vote).

The result wasn’t just shocking. It was a sign that Trump was indeed transforming the Republican Party.

In the following year, Stewart again announced his intention to run for US Senate against former VP nominee and incumbent US Senator Tim Kaine. Refusing to allow Stewart’s racially-tinged rhetoric to define the Republican Party unchallenged, Delegate Nick Freitas (R-Culpeper) — long a darling of the liberty movement — decided to take Stewart on with a shoestring budget.

The end result? Stewart barely edged out Freitas in a 45-43 contest that mimicked the results of the Gillespie-Stewart race by a handful of votes.

Stewart would go on to lose to Kaine in a 57-41 rout. Gillespie by contrast, after having nearly beaten Kaine in 2014, would discover that Trump’s ability to change election maps in states such as Ohio and Florida would also prove true in Virginia — losing to Northam 53-45.

Astute readers are picking up on two patterns here:

  • Virginia Republicans are narrowly divided between their conservative wing and their populist wing.
  • Regardless as to who wins this contest, the national narrative sets Republicans back in Virginia by at least eight points (if not more).

Very astute readers will pick up on a third pattern. While Virginia Republicans seem to be perfectly willing to openly commit hari-kari in the public square via Zoom meeting, Virginia Democrats are by and large united around McAuliffe and pushing their case to the general electorate as the “not-crazy-party”.

Catchy, right?

That’s not to say that Virginia Democrats aren’t doing some pretty crazy stuff in Richmond right now. But it is to say that Virginia Republicans are burning that most valuable of all resources — time — on infighting.

Time Is On Our Side (No It’s Not)

“But she fights.”

If there is a line that most people hear with regards to Chase’s campaign for governor, it is that single line — where most Republicans are perceived to not lift a finger other than to say “see I told you so” in contrast to Chase’s seeming ability to pick fights where none ought to be picked.

The fact that Chase isn’t even a Republican doesn’t seem to be phasing the populist wing of the GOP faithful even a little bit.

With candidates pledging to run as an outside candidate should Chase win the nomination, it should strike no one as odd that Chase has in turn pledged to run as an independent if she is not given the nomination method where she believes she can win hands down — a primary.

I don’t want to dive too deeply into the game of chicken that Virginia Republicans seem to be playing with one another at the moment. Many candidates believe they can win a primary contest against Chase, even with three well-funded candidates behind them.

Even if the nomination contest gets bloody; even if it is a primary (where unlike a convention, there is no runoff) the gamble is as old as the Rolling Stones. No matter who wins the nomination contest and no matter how bloody it is, Republicans will fall in line in the end.

Now you always say
That you want to be free
But you’ll come running back (said you would baby)
You’ll come running back (I said so many times before)
You’ll come running back to me

Of course, at present the Republican nomination method is locked in with an unassembled convention, one that critics state has no mechanism within the RPV Party Plan.

Should Chase succeed in her lawsuit to move the nomination contest back to a primary, the advantages are entirely with Chase — and a handful of consultants who make money inspiring hopes and running candidates (of course).

There is one other option that is not openly discussed. Should the unassembled convention not move forward, RPV would have no choice but allow the State Central Committee to determine the nominee — a path that would please no one at all and would undoubtedly see Chase locked out of any path to victory.

Therein lies the problem.

With former Rep. Denver Riggleman (VA-05) all but promising an independent run should Chase win, and Chase all but promising an independent run should it be a convention? Guess who wins?

Terry McAuliffe.

Time isn’t on our side after all.

Yet the greater problem still remains. Two camps among Virginia Republicans are very evenly divided no matter how much money is spent on elections. No matter the nomination method. No matter the candidates.

If one camp splits itself four ways while the other camp has one champion? You don’t have to be Karl Rove to figure out the endgame.

The longer Republicans wait to figure it out, the longer it is going to be before we are able to make up that eight-point deficit — a problem that continues to bedevil Republicans statewide in a decade-long drought.

– – –

Shaun Kenney is the editor of The Republican Standard, former chairman of the Board of Supervisors for Fluvanna County, and a former executive director of the Republican Party of Virginia.
Photo “Kirk Cox” by Kirk Cox. Background Photo “Virginia Capitol” by Amadeust. CC BY-SA 3.0.










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