The survey data are pretty clear on why Cuccinelli lost. He lost because he was unable to match Romney’s percentages with key demographic groups that almost always vote Republican. Those voters showed up at the polls, but too many Romney voters crossed over to cast ballots for McAuliffe or Libertarian Robert Sarvis.
The Republican nominee for governor won a plurality of male voters (48 percent), but well below the 51 percent that Romney won in the state last year. Cuccinelli would have gained an additional 48,000 votes if he had matched Romney’s percentage, much of which would have come from McAuliffe, thereby completely erasing the Democrat’s 55,100 victory margin. (See Virginia’s total vote here.)
Add in white women (Romney won 59 percent of them in the state in 2012, while Cuccinelli won only 54 percent this year) or wealthy voters (Romney won 51 percent of voters earning at least $100,000 a year in Virginia in 2012, while Cuccinelli drew just 43 percent of them and lost the category to McAuliffe) and the Republican would have had a comfortable victory last week.
And if you don’t want to focus on gender, the marital status numbers tell the same story. Romney won 55 percent of married voters in Virginia last year, while Cuccinelli won only 50 percent of them this year. That’s about 75,400 fewer married voters than a Romney-like Republican gubernatorial nominee should have drawn.
Though you hear a lot about the changing face of the electorate, both nationally and in Virginia, that’s not why Cuccinelli lost last week.So why did Cucinelli underperform? First, McAuliffe had more money and ran a better campaign with a technological edge. Second, Cuccinelli's reputation as a social-issue ideologue turned off some voters who who have supported a mainstream Republican like Romney.
It is a sign of the power of the Obamacare issue that Cuccinelli came as close as he did.