Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The race for Virginia: Some background

As all of us well know by now, Virginia has not gone for a Democrat in a national presidential election since 1964 when Lyndon Johnson won a landslide victory over Barry Goldwater, but this map from pollster.com provides a striking visual for what seems to be transpiring now in the Old Dominion:

The latest four polls have had Obama up by either six points or 10 points. In fact, two of the polls called it a six point race and two of them called it a 10 point race.

The Washington Post points to some interesting facts about trends in the recent electoral history of Virginia that help us to understand the changes that apparently are beginning to make Virginia blue. The paper provides data for recent elections that illuminates why Obama seems to be doing well there and McCain poorly:

2008 Democratic Primary
Obama 64
Hillary 35

2008 Republican Primary
McCain 50
Huckabee 41

2006 Senate
Webb 50
Allen 49

2005 Governor
Kaine 52
Kilgore 46

2001 Governor
Warner 52
Early 47

Obama did very well this year in Virginia's Democratic primary while McCain really struggled, struggled even though he already was the prohibitive favorite to become the nominee of the Republican Party. The Republicans in Virginia couldn't make themselves rally around McCain even for the sake of party unity. This seems to speak the relative position of the two men among their respective party's bases of voters, that is, Obama's strength there and McCain's weakness. Moreover, the Democrats have shown strength in every statewide race since 2001 except for the Bush-Kerry match four years ago.

On many demographic measures, gender, age, education, and first language, Virginia roughly parallels the nation. But it's the Commonwealth's racial/ethnic breakdown, particularly the ratio of African Americans in the Old Dominion compared to the nation, that may make a wonderful difference for tipping this bastion of Republican presidential politics into our column this year. While African Americans represent about 12% of Americans, they represent about 19% of Virginians. I really can see Virginia from where I live in the District of Columbia: Watching the maps two weeks from tonight turn the Old Dominion blue will be the sweetest of pleasures for me.


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