ANNANDALE, Va. (WJLA) - It's an overcast, chilly, drizzly and steadfastly depressing early Monday morning when Robert Sarvis arrives at an otherwise empty Tropical Smoothie Caf in Annandale for an appointment. Upbeat reggae music wafts through the small strip-mall venue, providing a respite from the outside gloom.
Sarvis slides behind a small table. He's not depressed by the back-to-work weather but most decidedly isn't tapping his foot to the island sounds. No, his is a countenance of stark-yet-serene seriousness.
To him, this run against Republican candidate Ken Cuccinelli and Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe is no gimmick, to be sure.
But he's not going to win. Zero chance. Some four weeks before the election, McAuliffe has roughly a nine-point lead in most polls, with Sarvis pulling in about 9 percent.
"We're realistic about our chances but they're not zero," Sarvis says.
So what are they?
"Greater than zero," he says with a rare chuckle. "That's all I'll say."
This is the second campaign for Sarvis, a 37-year-old who looks more like 25. He ran as a Republican in 2011 against incumbent Democratic state senator Richard Saslow from Fairfax and lost big.
That's also when the former big-money lawyer and software developer, a Harvard graduate who grew up in Springfield, decided to ditch traditional political party affiliation.
"It wasn't like I joined the Republican party," Sarvis says. "I mean, I did in order to run. And when I did that, I kind of bought into the idea that you have to run as either one of the two parties if you want to make a difference, but that experience in the intervening couple of years has just proven to me that the two parties are just too corrupt and too interested in maintaining power to be vehicles for freedom.
"I did consider whether I could run as a Democrat but I just decided that it didn't make any sense. The economic program with the Democrats just doesn't make any sense at all. The Republican party, I really dislike their social extremism, but I wasn't really aware that the Virginia GOP was so far gone. They're basically beyond help - that's one of the things I learned in the race.
"And on economic issues, they speak a good game but they're totally unreliable when it comes to economic policy."
His proposals are something of a mixed bag. He's in favor of LGBT rights and also in favor of gun rights. He's for tax reform and a relaxation of various drug laws.
Yet many political operatives and pundits see Sarvis drawing support away from Cuccinelli, especially because he's far from a social conservative but strident in his views about tax reform. Sarvis has heard the chatter but doesn't buy it.
"The whole idea of voting out of fear is a bad way to vote," he says. "I'm the only person who's earned all of the people who are going to vote for me."
Asked Tuesday afternoon whether the presence of Sarvis is holding down his polling numbers, Cuccinelli shook his head.
"No, I don't think so," Cuccinelli said. "I mean, we have a history of third-party candidates in Virginia, and I'm the most pro-liberty statewide elected official in years in my lifetime - bar none, it isn't even close.
"So, for those folks, the more they do, the better I do, and I'm counting on voters getting informed over the next four weeks, and we'll pull voters from all the candidates running."
Sarvis, who wasn't invited to the first two debates, is waiting to hear whether he'll be invited to the third, Oct. 24 at Virginia Tech. His contact with the other two candidates so far has been minimal.
"I've only interacted with them for like two minutes, total," he said, "so. . ."
Whatever happens as the election grows closer, he insists he's sticking with his decision not to make an 11th-hour endorsement of either candidate.
"I just don't see how it could possibly happen," Sarvis says. "It would just go against the whole nature of what I'm doing."