Of course, no Democrat (that I’m aware of) has announced intentions to run for Jim Webb’s senate seat now that Webb has announced that he isn’t running for re-election. However, the top two names out there are Kim Kaine, former governor of Virginia, and Tom Perriello, former VA-05 representative.
Probably not shockingly, this is turning into yet another moderate vs. netroots primary battle (at least if both candidates get into the race), with moderates falling in line with Kaine and the netroots falling in line with Perriello. However, looking at some facts, as well as a November 2010 poll about the primary, it seems very difficult to see how Kim Kaine isn’t a far superior primary opponent to Tom Perriello.
I’m not going to say Perriello can’t win. Indeeds, there is nothing in the polls that say Perriello is unelectable. The problem is that Kaine would likely start the race leading any Republican opponent, and with strong support in the all the groups he needs support from. Perriello, on the other hand, would likely trial most, if not all, potential opponents, and have to spend time shoring up some his should-be supporters, before even getting into moderates and independents who he’ll need to pick up to win a race. Not impossible, but he starts at a great disadvantage.
Without even getting into politics, let’s look at some facts. How about experience? Perriello’s elective office experience consists of two years in the US House of Representatives. I don’t want to downplay how fantastic his victory over Virgil Goode was in 2008, but failed the most important test of any freshman Congressman: get re-elected. Yes, he fared better than many Democrats, and I think it’s one reason why he can still win, but can he get the moderate and conservative support he needs? Kaine, meanwhile, has been Mayor of Richmond, Lt. Governor under Mark Warner, and then Governor of Virginia, and despite being blocked by the GOP often, left office with 60% approval. Also, as DNC chair, Kaine can claim to have strong ties to Obama. Perriello is supported by netroots because he fearlessly ran on Obama’s agenda in 2010, and I applaud that. However, I should also note (again) that he lost.
Now onto the November 2010 poll run by PPP. This is where Kaine’s advantage over Perriello starts to really show. PPP did approval ratings on both candidates (and Webb) and ran hypothetical races of them against George Allen (who has already announced), Lt. Governor Bill Bolling, and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.
Kaine had the best approval rating of any of the 8 people asked who is currently not in elected office, at 43% favorable, and a +3% net. That’s opposed to 40% favorable (-1% net) for George Allen, 20% favorable (-5% net) for Bill bolling, 31% favorable (-8% net) for Ken Cuccinelli, and 22% favorable (-10% net) for Tom Perriello. He’s also the most known of every politician not named Mark Warner, getting less “not sure” responses than even current Governor Bob McDonnell. While this can be addressed over a campaign, Perriello is the least known candidate, with 46% saying they aren’t sure of their opinion of him. When taking “not sure”s out of it, 52% of those rendering an opinion on Tim Kaine had a favorable opinion of him, as compared to 49% for Allen, 44% for Bolling, 44% for Cuccinelli, and 41% for Perriello. It’s not a fantastic start when you have a lower approval than the state’s insane Attorney General.
When it came to the match ups themselves, Kaine led all three potential opponents, leading Allen 50%-44%, Bolling 48%-41%, and Cuccinelli, 50%-40%, coming away with, at worst, a 48% rating, and Allen coming the closest at 6%. That is even somewhat better than Webb. While Webb had a higher floor (49%), Webb did have a closer margin with Allen (4%). Perriello, on the other hand, loses 2 of the 3 match ups. He trails Allen by 5%, 47%-42% and trails Bolling by 1%, 42%-41%, which for the purposes of this poll is really a tie. The only candidate he leads is the only candidate who has a net approval rating anywhere near as low as his: Ken Cuccinelli, who he leads 44%-41%. Perriello still maxes out at 44% approval, 4% lower than Kaine’s bottom.
It gets even worse when one looks at the crosstabs. While Kaine has 68%, and a +53% net approval with Obama voters, Perriello only has 36% approva, and a net +16%. And despite having only 56% of Obama voters even rendering an opinion on him, Perriello still has a higher unfavorable rating among Obama voters than Kaine does. This trend pretty much continues through many other samples.
Kaine gets 84% to 86% of Obama voters in his three matchups, while Perriello only receives 72% to 79% of Obama voters in his matchups, with as many as 11% of Obama voters defecting to Allen in the Allen/Perriello matchup. He also currently has a minimum of 15% of Democratic voters saying undecided, meaning as many as a full quarter of Obama voters either currently support Allen over Perriello or could support him in a race between the two. The Allen+Undecided number for Kaine is only 15%.
When it comes to ideology, it doesn’t get better. Perriello has a higher unfavorable rating among liberals than Kaine, despite having twice as many “not sure”s. Kaine’s net among liberals is +51% while Perriello is a mere +9%. The two have an equal unfavorable rating among moderates despite, again, Perriello having three times as many moderates saying “not sure.” Perriello does have a net positive among moderates, at +3, but that pales in comparison to Kaine’s net +34% among moderates. Perriello’s net among conservatives is better, but only because 52% say “not sure,” and it’s not like many more conservatives can refuse to say they have a favorable opinion, with only 7% saying so. When it comes to match ups, once again Kaine’s Allen+Undecided numbers are only 18% for liberals and 32% for moderates, while Perriello’s is 22% for liberals and 46% for moderates. They perform about the same among conservatives.
Even when you break it down by party, Kaine’s unfavorability within the party is only 15% while Perriello’s is 24%, with a “not sure” response nearly three times that of Kaine. Only 58% of Democrats who had an opinion have a favorable opinion of Perriello. That’s downright terrible. Kaine also has a net approval among Independents while Perriello has a net disapproval. When it comes to a race against Allen, Kaine brings in 90% of Democrats, and a plurality of Independents. Perriello bleeds nearly twice as many Democrats (though they all mostly go into the “undecided” category) and Allen picks up 49% of Independents.
While women have a net approval of Tim Kaine of +9%, they have a net disapproval of Perriello of -10%. That’s not a good start in one of the most important demographics in the state. It doesn’t get much better with African Americans, with Perriello having a higher unfavorable rating than Kaine, despite having twice the “not sure” numbers.
The one and only place where Perriello appears to even tie Kaine is within the 18 to 29 demographic. Kaine actually has a net disapproval of -5% among 18-29 year olds, 36-41 while Perriello only has a -3% net, 30-33. However, while Kaine has a net +15, -1, and -6 among 30 to 45 year olds, 46 to 65 year olds, and 65+, Perrillo crashes, with a net -9%, -10%, and -13%. And Perriello shows no advantage among that group in a match up Allen. Kaine wins 18-29 year olds 58%-31% against Allen while Perriello wins it 54%-36%. And while Kaine wins every age group but 65+ against Allen, Perriello only wins the 18-29 age group.
Again, do these numbers show that Perriello is unelectable? No, I think the numbers are definitely close enough to show that Perriello is at least a theoretically viable candidate. But it’s clear that Perriello is working from something like a 7 to 10% disadvantage when compared to Kaine. That is definitely enough to flip the race from a Democratic win to a Republican win in 2012, and I’m sure many people out there will remind us that he was 30% down to Goode not too long before the 2008 election, which he won.
Of course, sites like Blue Virginia is already on the Perriello bandwagon, and already blasting media sites for paying more attention to Kaine, despite the fact that “draft Perriello” on Facebook has 632 likes (as of this writing) vs. 193 likes for “draft Tim Kaine.” Of course, there appears to be no way to actually how many of those 632 likes are people from Virginia and how many of them are visitors to netroots blogs who, I’m sure, are trying to hype up a possible Perriello candidacy. And as I’ve noted before, despite the apparent excitement and energy that the netroots can put into races, making the candidates they support look like they have more support than they perhaps do, their record in elections is pretty bad (think Lieberman, who was still elected Senator, and Halter, who lost the AR-Sen primary in 2010, among others). And really, with numbers like 632 and 193, any comparison at this point is virtually meaningless.