In less than one week, Virginians will be casting their votes in the state’s 2016 presidential primaries. Virginia, along with Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, and Vermont, will hold primaries for both parties. Alaska will hold its Republican caucus while American Samoa will caucus for Democrats.
The 2016 field so far has been anything but predictable, with Donald Trump in particular seemingly immune to everything but gravity. Iowa, the first contest of 2016, put doubt in the polls, with frontrunner Trump coming up short. New Hampshire also shook things up, with one-time longshot Bernie Sanders besting Clinton. If Trump still had doubters, Saturday’s voting in South Carolina made them believe. As of now, Virginia is Trump’s to lose. Who do Virginians favor?
As of right now, I am supporting Bernie Sanders,” said Josh Schneider, a 25 year old journalism student at Virginia Commonwealth University. Schneider is supporting Sanders because of his consistency. “Bernie seems to be consistent across the board in all his views.” Indeed, film footage circulating online from the late nineties reveals him holding virtually identical views to his current policies . For Schneider, Hillary’s “evolving” views have cast doubt on her trustworthiness. “She seems to be one who relies on polls before stating her views.” Also supporting Sanders is 22 year old Daniel Rattner, a business owner and musician studying at VCU. ” I grew up in Vermont and he did a great job there.” Like Schneider, much of Rattner’s decision comes down to trust. “He’s the only politician that I actually trust and has a track record for standing up for the lower and middle class, so it is not just empty promises.” Where do Virginians stand on the Republican field?
“Trump frightens me more than any candidate other than Hillary,” said Tim Black, an officer in the U.S. Army. Citing Trump’s comments on Muslims and general fear stoking, Black is open to any Republican candidate other than Trump. ”He needs to be removed. He is a hate monger.” The latest poll of likely Virginia voters largely support how Black, Schneider, and Rattner feel.
According the CNU Judy Ford Wason Center for Public Policy’s most recent poll of the 2016 presidential candidates in Virginia, Trump has the highest unfavorable rating among all candidates. On the blue side, more than half of voters who said they were likely to vote in the Democratic primary also said they supported Hillary Clinton. Clinton’s 52 percent support put her ahead of Sen. Bernie Sanders, who had 40 percent support. However, just like for the Republicans, Sanders was viewed more favorably (39 percent to 33 percent) among Virginia voters than perceived frontrunner Clinton. Hillary Clinton’s unfavorable rating was 59 percent. Sanders came in at 50 percent. The poll has Clinton and Trump coming out on top. Strong performances by Trump and Clinton on Tuesday — also called the S.E.C. primary because of the southern swath of states that will vote — could help them clinch the nominations by mid-March. As Iowa and New Hampshire proved though, the polls are fallible.
“Although the polls show Donald Trump winning in Virginia, I think that there is a real chance that Rubio could pull through to win in our Commonwealth,” says Samantha Sedivy, a student at the University of Richmond School of Law and the chairwoman of the Greater Richmond Young Republicans. She points to Rubio’s high favorability rating (the highest among candidates at 44%) It is a hard task however to square these numbers with the results of South Carolina. Trump even took evangelicals, a group Cruz had bet everything on. The question then is, does “favorability” even matter?
For the Republicans, the race has effectively become a two-man contest between Trump and Rubio. Cruz severely underperformed with evangelicals, his alleged safety net. Carson, while still in the race, is on life support. On the Democratic side, Virginia could be anyone’s game. Sanders has proven he is a contender. Hillary has not taken it lying down though, winning the Nevada caucus. Sanders polls strongly with millennials, while Hillary enjoys strong support from older voters as well as African-Americans. All in all, Virginia will be the state to watch this Tuesday.