September 21, 2018 News & Press Releases

Petition scandal deflates Scott Taylor’s supporters (Norman Leahy/Washington Post)

by Norman Leahy, Washington Post

KEY POINT: " Scott Taylor seems immobilized by the investigation and the very real possibility of criminal charges," Kidd said, "and without being able to directly address some of this, I don't see how he pivots and refocuses the narrative." 

Petition scandal deflates Scott Taylor's supporters

By Norman Leahy, Washington Post

It’s been clear for some weeks that Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District race between incumbent Rep. Scott Taylor (R) and Democratic nominee Elaine Luria was going to be close. But new polling suggests the race might be slipping away from Taylor, thanks to a series of self-inflicted wounds.

The new data comes in an internal Luria campaign poll released Monday. The headline: Luria leads Taylor 51 percent to 43 percent, with 6 percent undecided.

That’s a big swing from the last poll — released in April, before Luria was the Democratic nominee — showing Taylor leading 48 percent to 42 percent.

For Democratic partisans, this is all good news — never mind that partisan outfits conducted both polls, and, as a rule, internal numbers released publicly should be viewed with suspicion.

For Luria’s backers, the number show that Taylor is in free fall after a Richmond judge issued a withering opinion in a petition-signature scandal involving four Taylor campaign staffers.

He might be. Until we have independent polling data on the race, there’s no way to check whether the trend the partisan data indicates is real or merely wishful thinking.

That said, Luria’s campaign is doing exactly the right thing. It’s driving a narrative that the petition scandal has given her an “added advantage” and “raised very real concerns” about Taylor, all of which “provides important momentum” in the run-up to Election Day.

The results of a Virginia State Police investigation looking into what role Taylor might have played won’t be known until after the election.

That effectively fixes a cloud over the incumbent.

For a ground-level take on the race, I asked Christopher Newport University professor Quentin Kidd what he’s seeing in the 2nd District and whether Taylor could find a way to get back on track.

Kidd said that while the internal Luria poll should be viewed skeptically, it’s still “probably generally accurate.”

“I’m all over the district talking with groups and people all of the time,” Kidd said in an email, “and I easily pick up that the petition issue has hurt Taylor in subtle but substantial ways.”

That doesn’t mean Republicans will abandon Taylor for Luria. But, Kidd said, “it has depressed their enthusiasm” for him.

“[Republicans] aren’t as optimistic and energetic about Taylor as they were,” Kidd said, and are “a little deflated.”

Kidd said some Republicans have told him “they think Taylor is probably guilty of something that wasn’t right, whether it was outright illegal or just crossing an ethical line, and they are disappointed in him for it.”

Republicans have also told Kidd the election was “already going to be a close,” and the “petition issue is a major self-inflicted wound that could very well cost Taylor the race.”

“Either way, they are deflated by it.”

Kidd also said Taylor has “for several weeks … taunted the Luria campaign and Democrats on social media by asking them to show their polling data that he was behind.”

Kidd said earlier internal polls from both camps showed Taylor ahead. With the latest data release from Luria, Taylor has been silent.

“We may get [a response] from him in a few days and end up in a dueling polls scenario,” Kidd said, “but given how much he was taunting Democrats over polls in July and August, I’m just finding it interesting that we’re hearing nothing in response to this one.”

Kidd said Taylor hasn’t handled the petition scandal well, “but I don’t know what else he can do.”

“[Taylor] seems immobilized by the investigation and the very real possibility of criminal charges, “ Kidd said, “and without being able to directly address some of this, I don’t see how he pivots and refocuses the narrative.”

The petition issue, Kidd said, “is likely to be very loud (if not deafening) background music for the rest of the race.”

We’re left to wonder exactly what tune is playing in the background. Perhaps “The World Turned Upside Down?”