The "popular trends" in the Democratic primary race for Virginia governor have been the simultaneous free-fall of Terry McAuliffe and smokin' hot surge of Creigh Deeds. But what about the third candidate, Brian Moran? Remember him? Sandy hair, about yea high? The common perception right now seems to be that since he's not experiencing some sort of dramatic fluctuation in the polls, in any direction, he will almost certainly lose.
Moran appears to be the third-place candidate, although polls still show that the race is absolutely nowhere near closed: About 20 percent of voters remain undecided, and plenty of others haven't exactly tattooed their current favorite's name on their biceps.
But what exactly happened, to knock the buzz out of Moran's candidacy? Was it that he was mean to Terry McAuliffe, and it backfired? In a way, yes, but not that simplistically. Let's look at it step-by-step, but first, be sure to put on your electoral demographic math nerd safety goggles.
- Brian Moran and Terry McAuliffe were almost exclusively fighting between themselves for the more liberal, "voter-rich" northern Virginia lead. Moran usually started these fights, and his sole campaign strategy over the last month has been to pound McAuliffe in teevee ads and so forth.
- And some of it worked for Moran, who took a modest lead among northern Virginians, many of whom were beginning to fall out of love with McAuliffe.
- Unfortunately for Moran, the start McAuliffe's slide coincided with the Washington Post's endorsement of Creigh Deeds. Deeds' strategy beforehand basically ignored northern Virginia entirely and concentrated on rural areas. With this endorsement, however, Deeds (without lifting a finger) won over many, many of those NoVa voters who were drifting away from McAuliffe -- ones that Moran had planned to pick off for himself.
- In sum: Moran hits McAuliffe in NoVa, McAuliffe's support weakens in NoVa, major newspaper tells NoVa to vote for random farm guy they'd never heard of, Deeds takes Brian Moran's half-captured votes in area he'd never even bothered with.