Election season is over. The plethora of media messages have ended. The campaign buses have been parked. The “I sponsor this message” blurbs have stopped broadcasting on the radio. But, what does it all mean?
Virginians elected Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe as their next governor in an historic election, defeating his Republican opponent Ken Cuccinelli, and the Independent candidate Robert Sarvis.
McAuliffe’s victory was not a surprise considering the polling that took place during the weeks prior to the election. However, the margins by which he won may not be as striking as first predicted. In fact, the polling done within the McAuliffe campaign predicted only a 2-3 percent difference in the final election results.
“Keep in mind that polling captures public opinion at a snapshot in time,” said Assistant Professor of Political Science Leslie Caughell. “The issues concerning voters and their perceptions can change at any given moment. Additionally, there might have been sampling issues throughout different polling issues.”
Cuccinelli gained some momentum in the state on the heels of the troubled implementation of Obamacare, leaving only a 3 percent difference in the overall voting totals.
“The failure of Obamacare was important to Cuccinelli’s campaign because the Commonwealth of Virginia marginally opposes this program, and to see its failure struck a chord with Virginian voters,” said Caughell.
The percentages between the three candidates were even closer in some districts.
“I was looking at the election results as they were reported,” said sophomore Alexis Turner-Lafving. “[The night of the election] was a prime example of the importance of every vote because the winners in several counties, including Williamsburg, were only one vote apart. State elections are decided via a simple majority, so every single person’s voice is heard.”
The success of Sarvis as an Independent candidate helped to make this election historic. While, he was added to the ballot late in the campaign season, he quickly gained the attention of Commonwealth voters because of his positive campaign tactics and straightforward policy measures
It is rare for a third party candidate to get more than 3 percent of the total vote; Sarvis got almost 7 percent.
Even more striking are the apparent differences in the candidates’ positions on specific issues, namely those concerning the college demographic of ages 18 to 24.
“According to exit polls, Cuccinelli won the majority vote of the college-student demographic, ages 18-24,” said Caughell. “This is much to the success of the College Republican National Committee and their success throughout college campus, especially in the distribution of YouTube videos. The success of their campaign strategy shows that the Republican party is reforming its tactics towards the youth population, a demographic that hugely supported President Obama in his election.”
Robert Sarvis seemed to take the middle ground between both extremists.
“I voted for Sarvis because I honestly thought he was the best candidate,” said junior Kimberly Branham-Blowe. “I personally disliked all the mud-slinging going along in the McAuliffe and Cuccinelli campaigns. Time might be running out for the two-party political system in America. It’s time for people to vote for the issues, not the parties.”
However, considering there were three candidates, instead of the traditional two, many people were still disappointed in their potential governor.
“This year’s election was somewhat of a paradox from my perspective,” said junior Kevin Wolfe. “It was amazing to me how both parties could nominate such unelectable candidates. For most Virginian voters, it seemed like they were voting for the candidate who would do the least damage instead of the candidate who could do the most good. It didn’t seem like any candidate was particularly qualified.”
Wolfe was not the only the student taking this stance.
“I was extremely disappointed in the election, mostly because of the lack of qualified candidates on my ballot,” said senior Franchesica Middleton. “In several instances, I only had one choice: Robert Sarvis.”
Where does the state go from here? Only time will tell. But, nevertheless, the Commonwealth of Virginia had yet another interesting campaign cycle.