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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Sabato: Turnout Sealed GOP Win in VA

It would be hard to find a more astute observer of Virginia politics than Larry J. Sabato, Director, U.Va. Center for Politics and head wizard at Larry J. Sabato’s CrystalBall website. Although it’s been well-reported that Democratic turnout and especially African American turnout were critical factors in the NJ and VA gubernatorial elections, just to flesh it out a bit, here’s a couple of nuggets regarding VA turnout from his “Sabato’s Fun Facts–Election ’09” post today:

…In Virginia, one result of absentee Democrats was the lowest voter turnout for a gubernatorial election in the state’s modern two-party history (1969 to 2009). The 2009 turnout of 39.8 percent of the registered voters was the lowest in forty years. Even with all the population growth since 2005, the absolute voter turnout in 2009 (1.97 million) fell below that of four years ago (2.0 million). And the electorate was barely more than half that of 2008 (3.7 million). Astounding.

And the African American vote in particular:

…In a sampling of heavily black precincts around Virginia. Even though Creigh Deeds received a larger percentage of the black vote (93 percent) than the previous Democratic gubernatorial nominee, Tim Kaine, in 2005 (90 percent), the turnout was miserable for Deeds–more than 10 full percentage points lower. He received many fewer African-American votes than Kaine, despite near-unanimous backing from blacks who cast a ballot.

And while you’re at the CrystalBall, read Alan Abramowitz’s post-mortem, “What Happens in Virginia and New Jersey, Stays in Virginia and New Jersey,” which provides elegant numbers-crunching to verify that the data,

…provides no support for the belief that the Virginia and New Jersey results predict what will happen across the entire nation next year or that these elections constituted referenda on President Obama’s performance. Instead, the Democratic defeats in Virginia and New Jersey reflected a combination of normal turnout patterns favoring the out-party in off-year elections and the weaknesses of the Democratic candidates in both states.

Abramowitz expects Democratic losses in the mid-terms next year, the extent of which would at that time more likely be linked to how voters “evaluate the performance of President Obama.”

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