Sarvis as Spoiler — for McAuliffe

Robert Sarvis -- strongest third-party candidate performance in the South in 40 years.
Robert Sarvis — strongest third-party candidate performance in the South in 40 years.

Rick Sincere makes the case on Bearing Drift that Robert Sarvis, the Libertarian candidate for Virginia governor, cost Democrat Terry McAuliffe more votes than he cost Republican Ken Cuccinelli — contrary to the conventional wisdom and, indeed, contrary to the expectation of the Cuccinelli campaign itself. CNN exit polls suggest that had there been a two-man race, Sarvis voters would have split 5 to 2 in McAuliffe’s favor.

Had Cuccinelli provided an opportunity for Sarvis to participate in the gubernatorial debates, Sincere argues, the Libertarian would have gotten more visibility for his liberal positions on gay marriage and marijuana legalization. More votes for Sarvis would have meant fewer for McAuliffe.

CNN exit polls are a gold mine for anyone wanting to plumb the economic, racial and cultural aspects of the race. I find it fascinating that Sarvis, though half Chinese in ethnicity and married to a black woman, drew an overwhelming majority of his votes from whites — 8% of whites voted for him but only 1% African-Americans did. (The sample size of Latinos and Asians was too negligible to be meaningful.) Sarvis, the most youthful of the candidates, won 15% of the 18- to 29-year-old vote, much more than his 7% average across all age groups.

Clearly, there is a strong libertarian streak among Virginia’s young white population. Priorities and voting patterns will change, no doubt, as Millennials age, get married and have children. Unmarried voters, women especially, favored McAuliffe by overwhelming margins, while married men and women broke for Cuccinelli over McAuliffe.  Apparently, marriage and child-rearing have a way of changing peoples’ priorities, especially those of women, whose swing to the conservative candidate was even more pronounced than that of men.

But here’s a curiosity: The 18- to 24-year-old age cohort favored the conservative Cuccinelli over the liberal McAuliffe by a 45% to a 39% margin. McAuliffe’s performance improved dramatically among voters in their late 20s and peaked among voters in their 30s. What does this mean? Is it a statistical artifact of a small sample size, or does it suggest that the emerging cohort of  young Millennial voters will be more conservative than their older siblings?

Update: Here is Dave Jacobs’ take on the exit polls in the Daily Beast. Sarvis’ performance, he writes, was the strongest for a third-party candidate in the South for 40 years.


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5 responses to “Sarvis as Spoiler — for McAuliffe”

  1. Breckinridge Avatar

    A slightly alternate read: I think a fair number of voters who had earlier held or dallied with a preference for Sarvis, as a protest against Cuccinelli, in the end went back to Cuccinelli. He certainly made a hard pitch at the end for the Paul-bot libertarians, anyway.

    McAuliffe made no such pitch, again assuming most of the Sarvis voters had Cuccinelli as their second choice. After all, hasn’t it turned out that a Democratic bundler was funding Sarvis’s ads?

    I’d predicted 48-44-8 with the after action analysis focused on the Sarvis vote and who he hurt….

    The amazing news in the exit polls is that the gender gap was far less pronounced than the earlier polls were picking up. Either the Obamacare issue brought some GOP women back to the red or you had another version of the Wilder effect, and women were refusing to admit even to a pollster they were voting for Cuccinelli.

  2. If Sarvis was not in the race, would the Governor results have looked similar to the AG race (within 1000 votes)?

    Did more people vote Sarvis/Obenshain or Sarvis/Herring?
    From the results it appears to be Sarvis/Obenshain, which was bad for Cuccinelli.

  3. I agree with MCS… probably been dang close

    re: ” The 18- to 24-year-old age cohort favored the conservative Cuccinelli over the liberal McAuliffe by a 45% to a 39% margin. ”

    is that both genders combined?

    what was the male only 18-24 cohort?

  4. John Buckley Avatar
    John Buckley

    There was no “Democrat bundler funding Sarvis ads.” An Obama bundler, who also contributes to Libertarians, gave $150,000 to a Texas-based libertarian PAC in January 2013. Sarvis surfaced in March 2013 as interested in the VA LP nomination for governor. In May, the PAC contributed $10,000 to help with signature-gathering expenses. The Obama bundler played no role in the PAC’s donation to Sarvis. Sarvis ended up raising approximately $175,000, not including the $300,000 reputedly spend on his behalf by the “Purple PAC.” Some Republicans would like to think that Libertarian candidates are merely a ploy by Democrats to divide the Republican vote. That’s delusional, presumptuous, and factually incorrect. If the purpose of the bundler’s donation was part of a nefarious ploy to help Sarvis and defeat Cuccinelli, one would think the PAC would have given more than the modest $10,000 to Sarvis, and that Sarvis would not have emphasized gay marriage and legalization of marijuana as a prime issue (appealing to the left of the traditional political spectrum). And even without the $10,000 in May, the Libertarian Party in Virginia would have garnered the signatures to get Sarvis on the ballot. The “Sarvis- Democrat bundler” connection, repeated widely in Red State and by Karl Rove in the Wall Street Journal, is a weak crutch. And a crock.

  5. hmmm… John Buckey seems to know a few things… seriously.

    on the point of signatures… I distinctly remember some national candidates for POTUS saying that Virginia’s ballot requirements were so high that even some national candidates lacked the resources to get the signatures.

    But Sarvis did and I find that interesting because for a seemingly symbolic 3rd party candidate he seemed to have more “juice” that some national candidates.

    did the recent changes in the law make it easier for someone like Jarvis to get on the ballot or is something else going on?

    If I went a a particular county to see how many signatures were gathered for Jarvis what would I find?

    I worked on a soil and water candidacy one time to get the required signatures and it was no small task.. just for soil and water..

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