From Jamelle Bouie’s “Virginia’s New Dominion” at The American Prospect:
…Virginia’s growing diversity made Obama’s four-point victories in 2008 and 2012 possible; he carried only 39 percent and 37 percent of whites. Since 2000, the state’s Latino population has nearly doubled to 8 percent; the Asian American population has grown from 4 percent to 6 percent; the African American population has held steady at 20 percent, while whites have declined from 74 percent to 65 percent of Virginians.
The political character of the white population has also changed. The huge expansion of military spending under President George W. Bush turned vast areas of the state into hubs for service members and defense contractors. This attracted Northern transplants, most of them whites with moderate or liberal views, to the seven cities of Hampton Roads and the sprawling suburbs of Northern Virginia.
However, Bouie cites a trend familiar to many Democratic Party operatives throughout the fifty states: “In 2008, 39 percent of Virginia’s voters were Democratic; in 2009, that figure fell to 33 percent, while Republican turnout was steady.” To sink deeper roots in the south, Democrats have got to figure out how to mobilize stronger GOTV in mid term and non-presidential elections.
Bouie sees Virginia’s current race for the governorship as a marquee contest for assessing the transformation of key southern states from red into blue, with Democrat Terry McAuliffe, a less than charismatic candidate, but one with impressive financial resources, vs. the GOP’s Ken Cuccinelli, a tea party extremist. If McAuliffe wins, that will be an indication that the political transformation of Virginia into a blue state is pretty much a done deal.
That makes sense. Since neither candidate is going to light the VA electorate on fire, a McAuliffe victory will signal that Dems in VA at least, have figured out how to reduce the GOP’s edge in turnout in non-presidential years, in this case through a combination of high tech GOTV and alerting women, in particular, to the ramifications of having a governor who opposes abortion in all circumstances, kowtows to the NRA and denies climate change.
These statewide races are critically important to the Democrats’ future. At the very least, electing Democratic governors can help prevent gerrymandering and resistance to Obamacare. If McAuliffe can win in Virginia in 2013, then 2014 looks a lot better for Dems in NC and GA in 2014.