With Virginians going to the polls today in one of two races for governor in the nation, two veteran national pollsters – one Republican and one Democratic – said that Libertarian candidate Robert Sarvis could well achieve the 10 percent of the vote that will give his party a line on the state ballot for the next three years.
Speaking at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast in Washington Monday to unveil their joint "Battleground 2014" project on current voter attitudes, Republican pollster Ed Goeas and Democrat Celina Lake both agreed that Virginia Libertarian Sarvis is in a stronger position than most third-party candidates are on the eve of the voting.
"It can happen," Goeas told Newsmax, when asked if he felt Sarvis would reach what his supporters call "the magic 10 percent" and secure ballot access for the Libertarian Party in Virginia. "The two major party candidates are both so disliked by voters that turnout could fall below 40 percent," Goeas said, referring to Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Ken Cuccinelli.
Noting that most of the surveys in Virginia show Sarvis at about 9 percent, Goeas said Sarvis could easily reach the 10 percent mark.
Sarvis' strong showing in so many polls, Goeas added, "also shows the inability of Republicans to reach out to the Libertarians. The tea partiers are not necessarily Libertarians. These are two very different groups."
Lake agreed, and said the circumstances pointing to Sarvis possibly getting over 10 percent of the vote "could certainly be true."
Lake seconded what many Republicans have long claimed – that Libertarians draw more from their voters than among Democrats and sometimes cost the GOP elections.
The trend of Republicans breaking away from their party's candidate to support Libertarians "has been growing in the West and it was certainly tried and true in my home state of Montana," Lake said, noting that in the U.S. Senate race last year, the Libertarian drew a greater share of the vote than Democrat Jon Tester's margin of victory over Republican Denny Rehberg. Tester edged Rehberg by 18,764 votes. But Libertarian Dan Cox drew 31,287 votes, or 6.5 percent, a high for a Libertarian statewide candidate anywhere last year and more than enough to make the difference.
"So I am hopeful for the Libertarian to do well tomorrow," Democrat Lake added, with a chuckle.
Both Goeas and Lake also concluded that the recent government shutdown caused greater harm to the Republican Party than the Democratic Party and the shutdown, in Lake's words caused "intense negatives to be attached to the tea party."
"When Ted Cruz took us off message," said Goeas, "it took Congress – at least its leadership – from its plan of allowing the rollout of Obamacare and highlighting the problems it would involve."
But he also found that President Barack Obama's popularity has been declining.
"Once a president's numbers decline, they never come back," Goeas said. "Once a president loses the trust of the people, they don't get it back. And too many heard him say, 'If you like your present health care plan, you can keep it.'"
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
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