Analyzing Swing States: Virginia, Part 1

This is the first part of a series of posts analyzing the swing state Virginia. The second part can be found here.

Analyzing Swing States: Virginia,Part 1

During the ’08 campaign, the political beltway famously defined Virginia as a Republican stronghold gone Democratic. For ten straight presidential elections, the state had reliably turned up in the Republican column. President Barack Obama, however, promised to change that – and he did.

More below.

Virginia indeed is becoming bluer – but not as much as one might think. The state moved Republican sooner than the rest of the South, but never became as deep red as places like Alabama. The actual trend from ’04 to ’08 is less prominent than one might think:

Analyzing Swing States: Virginia,Part 1

I think this in fact slightly understates Republican strength. Mr. Obama, after all, fit extremely well with Virginia’s Democratic base – blacks and rich NoVa residents. He might have overperformed. In many ways, Virginia still constitutes a purple state, perhaps even a red-leaning one. Democrats must run competent candidates and/or do this in favorable national environments; if both conditions are missing, they may get pummeled ala Creigh Deeds.

This may change in the future. As its wealthy, diverse, and Democratic-leaning NoVa suburbs continue growing; Virginia may soon become more Democratic than even Pennsylvania. This trend was much noted in 2008.

What is less noted is the degree to which the media has overstated this change. These demographic shifts are the work of decades, not one election; they occur very gradually. Moreover, even as bluing NoVa expands, Virginia’s western regions continue to redden – especially the once Democratic-leaning panhandle. This blunts the NoVa effect. Virginia may be turning Democratic, but Democrats should not underestimate continued Republican strength.


3 thoughts on “Analyzing Swing States: Virginia, Part 1”

  1. One additional factor that pushed the trends in NoVA along : Northern Virginia got to see a conservative GOP-dominated government in action under Allen and Gilmore for a while and by and large didn’t much like what they saw; namely, a refusal to invest in infrastucture in the growing urban areas in the state and an emphasis on pushing a rigid conservative social agenda.

    Note that the Republicans weren’t running on low-taxes-no-matter-what and Bible-thumping this time around. You’d never know that Gov. McDonnell is a Pat Robertson protege unless you did some homework. (I am of course less than convinced that they’ve really moved away from either of those positions, merely that their marketing apparatus has improved and that the Allen/Gilmore years have receded into memory somewhat.)  

  2. Mims was the interim A.G. who completed McDonnell’s term after he resigned to campaign full-time for Governor.

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