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Virginia Is A Lot Less Blue Tonight

Bob McDonnell led the Republican Party of Virginia out of the wilderness tonight:

Virginians elected Republican Robert F. McDonnell the commonwealth’s 71st governor Tuesday, sweeping the GOP to power and emphatically halting a decade of Democratic advances in the critical swing state.

The former state attorney general handily defeated Democratic state Sen. R. Creigh Deeds throughout the state. He apparently lost only narrowly even in Fairfax County, the state’s most populous jurisdiction, which had delivered powerful Democratic majorities to President Obama and Govs. Timothy M. Kaine and Mark R. Warner. And McDonnell reversed the political order in the Washington region’s outer suburbs, winning Loudoun and Prince William counties, which went for Kaine four years ago.

Boosted by a political mood shift that has left many voters cool to Democrats, McDonnell, 55, prevailed with a promise to create jobs in the down economy and fix the state’s clogged roads without a tax increase. His campaign avoided the hot-button social issues that in recent elections had alienated voters in Northern Virginia and other urban centers. And he benefited from a lackluster Democratic opponent whom voters came to know in good part from a video clip in which he waffled and stammered when asked if he would raise taxes.

The vote marked the first time in 12 years that Republicans swept all statewide offices. In a year when Democrats had hoped to take control of the House of Delegates for the first time since 1999, Republicans instead expanded their majority by at least two seats. Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling easily won reelection and Fairfax Sen. Ken Cuccinelli II, one of the most socially conservative members of the Richmond legislature, will be the next attorney general.

McDonnell dominated among independent voters, while Deeds, 51, failed to re-create the voting coalition that last year helped Barack Obama become the first Democratic presidential candidate to capture Virginia in more than four decades. The Democrat fell well short of the margins Obama, Kaine and Warner amassed among black voters, young people and northern Virginians. McDonnell won by a particularly wide margin in rural areas, which the Democrat had labeled “Deeds Country,” hoping to outperform his Democratic predecessors from his base in the Shenandoah Valley’s Bath County.


The magnitude of the GOP sweep had many party leaders recalling the 1993 vote, which also followed the election of a Democratic president. That year, George Allen was elected governor, the leading edge of the Republican revolution that culminated in the party regaining control of Congress a year later. Republicans said Tuesday’s wins restored Virginia to its natural political condition, arguing that recent Democratic victories reflected not a demographic or ideological shift, but only widespread anger at former President George W. Bush and the personal popularity of Obama and Sen. Mark Warner.

“It’s a Republican state, it has been, is now and will be,” said Pat Mullins, chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia.

Well, that’s certainly true when the Republicans manage to nominate a candidate that can actually win in the parts of the state that he or she needs to.

In other words, Northern Virginia:

In Prince William County, for example, where Obama won last year by six points, McDonnell beat Deeds by seven.

In Loudoun County, where Obama won by eight points last year, McDonnell beat Deeds this year by an astounding 23 points.

And, perhaps most significantly, in Fairfax County, the largest country in the area, which had gone for Obama by 21 points last year, McDonnell beat Deeds by 4,000 votes. To understand the significance of that final result, note that Fairfax had not gone for a Republican candidate for Governor since 1997, and that four years ago the County had gone for Democrat Tim Kaine by almost the exact same margin that McDonnell won by there tonight.

Turnout was definitely lower this year (1,949,841 est) than it was for last year’s Presidential Election (3,723,260), but it’s virtually identical to the number of voters who turned out for the last Gubernatorial election in 2005 (1,983,778). If nothing else, though, the turnout, and the result are an indication that the much-vaunted Obama machine really didn’t have any impact in Virginia this year — a reality seen most clearly in the results Arlington County and the City of Alexandria, two Democratic strongholds. Deeds won both, of course, but turnout was down by more than 50% from the previous year in both jurisdictions. Obviously, even die-hard Democrats weren’t excited by Creigh Deeds.

Finally, it looks like McDonnell’s coattails extended down the ballot and that the GOP may pick up as many as seven seats in the House of Delegates.

More analysis tomorrow, but it’s clear that the Republican Party of Virginia is back.

4 Responses to “Virginia Is A Lot Less Blue Tonight”

  1. Vast Variety says:

    The make up of the electorate that went out to vote in Virginia tonight is very different than the make up of the electorate that showed up in 2008.

    Unfortunately the younger generations seem to be too lazy to get out and vote in off year elections.

  2. Blame that on a Democratic candidate who failed to excite the electorate.

  3. Vast Variety says:

    I definitely agree there, in both Virginia and New Jersey.

  4. There’s more to it than that, I’ll have a post on that later

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