Is Tom Perriello Cooked?

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The media love Rep. Tom Perriello (D-Va.). The freshman congressman is an interesting guy—a Democrat from a red district who often (okay, sometimes—he’s pro-gun rights, for example) votes like he’s from a blue district. Perriello’s bold (or reckless) strategy has earned him countless mentions in national magazines and newspapers—including a New Yorker profile. Why is the press so fascinated by a relatively unimportant congressman from rural Virginia? The Yale Alumni Magazine‘s headline (Perriello has two Yale degrees—and now, apparently, a cover story to go with them) probably summed it up best: “Is Tom Perriello a new kind of congressman? Or just the kind who doesn’t get reelected?” 

According to a new poll, the answer may be the latter. Survey USA (one of the most accurate pollsters, according to polling guru Nate Silver’s rankings) shows Perriello trailing his GOP opponent, state senator Robert Hurt, 58-35. If those numbers are even close to right, Perriello’s goose is cooked. James L. at Swing State Project sees a glimmer of hope for Perriello in the SUSA poll’s internals:

[L]et’s first compare this poll to SUSA’s final poll of this race from 2008. In that one, SUSA’s likely voter universe was 40% Democratic and 38% Republican. This time, it’s 42% Republican and 27% Democratic. In 2008, SUSA pegged the electorate as 22% black—this time, just 13%. Furthermore, African-American voters give 27% of their votes to Hurt in this poll, a significantly higher share than the 13% given to [Virgil] Goode [the Republican who Periello beat in 2008]. Young voters, too, have completely flipped against Perriello; Hurt racks up a 62-30 lead among 18-to-34 year-olds after Perriello rocked Goode among those voters by a 61-34 margin two years ago. 

Back in February, a Public Policy Polling poll found Perriello and Hurt much closer, at 44 each. Who’s right? It’s hard to tell, but Perriello is a relatively liberal freshman in a red district—exactly the kind of congressman the Republicans should be able to beat in a GOP year. If he hangs on in November, it’ll be a sign that the Dems’ night might not be as bad as everyone expects. If he gets as badly crushed as the SUSA poll suggests he could, well, hold on to your hats.


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