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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Virginia Analysis

Jay Cost of RealClearPolitics has another of his battleground state analyses up today, this time on Virginia.
This history of the Commonwealth in presidential elections is well-known: no Democrat has carried it since LBJ in 1964. But Democrats have won the last three seriously contested non-presidential statewide elections, the 2001 and 2005 gubernatorial races, and the 2006 Senate race. Putting aside Mark Warner’s highly unconventional voter coalition in 2001, Kaine and Webb won with big margins in increasingly Democratic and voter-heavy NoVa, and smaller wins in Hampton Roads and the Richmond area.
Cost thinks Obama might have trouble duplicating Webb’s Hampton Roads performance (Webb, like McCain, had a strong natural pull among military personnel and veterans) and Kaine’s Richmond margins (Kaine was a former mayor of that city), but his potential equalizer could be increased African-American turnout. Obama would also need to do no worse than Kaine and Webb among white voters in Southside, Piedmont and Appalachian Virginia (Obama actually didn’t do that badly in the first two “downstate” regions during the primary). Cost suggests that raising the African-American share of total turnout from 20% to 25% would give Obama a good chance of victory.
I personally think that Obama might do better than Webb or Kaine in NoVa. And Cost doesn’t mention a second Obama ace-in-the-hole when it comes to black voters here and elsewhere: the likelihood that he will improve on John Kerry’s percentage of that vote. By my back-of-the-envelope calculation, if Obama can increase the Democratic percentage of the African-American vote in VA from Kerry’s 87% to 92%–a pretty good bet–that could produce a swing of up to 100,000 votes in the state without a significant increase in relative turnout. Since Bush’s margin in VA in 2004 was 262,000, African-American swing voters, here as in other battleground states with sizable black voting populations, are an X-factor that nobody much has been talking about.
More obviously, if Obama text-messages Tim Kaine’s (or far less likely, Mark Warner’s) name out today or tomorrow as his running-mate, that would almost certainly be worth a percentage point or two in VA, making it less of a reach for Democrats than Cost’s analysis suggests.

One comment on “Virginia Analysis

  1. davybaby on

    Yes, Democrats won the 2001 and 2005 Gubernatorial races in Virginia, but that’s just a continuation of a long-term trend; not since 1973 has a Virginia Governor’s race been won by the party that won the Presidential election the year before. During the Reagan, Bush Sr. & Bush Jr. years, Democrats won five elections for VA Governor and lost zero; during the Carter and Clinton years, Republicans won three elections for VA Governor and lost zero.

    Reply

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