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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

VA Election Results Spell Trouble for GOP

Republicans are spinning Terry McAuliffe’s margin of victory in the Virginia gubernatorial election as smaller than expected (2.4 percent) and a result of the Democrat’s heavy campaign spending. Fair enough. But Dems can point out that McAuliffe is not exactly Mr. Charisma, as he would admit, and he won, as did the Dems’ candidate for Lt. Gov, while the Dem. candidate for A.G. is behind a few hundred votes out of more than 2 million cast. Some other observations:

As Chris Cilliza and Aaron Blake point out at WaPo’s The Fix, “The Republicans’ un-married people problem: Cuccinelli carried married men and married women by single digits. But, he lost among unmarried people by massive margins. Unmarried men favored McAuliffe over Cuccinelli by almost two dozen points and unmarried women by more than forty.”
McAuliffe won women voters by a margin of 51-42 percent (but lost men by 3 percent). He got 67 percent – two out of three — unmarried women.
In terms of age, McAuliffe’s strongest cohort was those 30-44, who gave him 56 percent of their votes. But he also got 45 percent of the 65 and older voters, which is impressive for Dems in a southern state.
Also, note Blake and Cillizza, “In 2009, 78 percent of the Virginia electorate was white — and Republican Bob McDonnell rolled up a 35 point win over Democrat Creigh Deeds among white voters. Four years later, the electorate was only 72 percent white and Cuccinelli led McAuliffe by 20 points within that demographic group, according to exit poll results. That trend of white voter erosion is nothing new. In the 2012 election, it was on stark display.”
Alec McGilllis points out at The New Republic, “…very few pundits have been framing the race as having anything to say about the state of the gun control cause, despite McAuliffe’s remarkably forthright support for tighter gun restrictions, which included proudly touting his F rating in a debate with Republican Ken Cuccinelli.”

One of the most oft-cited observations about Virginia is that it is unique with the large numbers of federal workers voting in the state, and so the strong shutdown backlash is not likely to be replicated elsewhere. In reality, however, the research triangle of North Carolina is roughly analogous to the northern VA ‘burbs with its liberal bent. Dems face more of an uphill battle in NC. But it is the state where Obama lost by the closest margin, and discontent with Republican voter suppression is energizing key pro-Democratic constituencies. Virginia is trending blue today and N.C. is on deck.

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