Republicans dominated the Virginia elections, sweeping all three statewide offices and gaining at least three House of Delegates seats. Former Attorney General Bob McDonnell crushed state Sen. Creigh Deeds by a margin of 59-41% and beat him in 113 of the commonwealth’s 134 counties and cities.
McDonnell dominated every part of the state from the subdivisions of Northern Virginia to the Piedmont to Richmond to the Northern Neck to the Shenandoah Valley to coal country to Southside to Tidewater. It wasn’t even close.
In fact, it was a much bigger and wider sweep than most pundits realize. Attorney General-elect Ken Cuccinelli is “the most conservative statewide official in modern VA history, at least since segregation,” according to a Tweet by Politico’s Jonathan Martin last night.
Democratic House incumbents in Fairfax and Loudoun counties got ousted in moderate, suburban districts. In McLean, Margi Vanderhye, a center-left delegate known for her hard work and commitment to serious issues, lost to the woman who ran Tom DeLay and Scooter Libby’s legal defense funds.
Ultimately it came down to two factors: First, the Democratic base just did not show up and did not care about Deeds, and the GOP base was extremely energized to win back control. Second, McDonnell ran a great campaign with independents and Deeds alienated them.
A few key points:
The Fairfax Streak Lives On: Since 1969, whichever candidate wins vote-rich Fairfax County wins the state. McDonnell kept the streak alive with a 50.8-49.2 win in this suburban county outside Washington.
Deeds Forgot New Independents: As I explained in Politico yesterday, Deeds alienated independents by focusing on cultural issues rather than roads and schools, and consequently lost Loudoun and Prince William counties. It’s the sixth straight election where whoever wins those counties wins the state.
Home Bases: Both candidates performed well in their respective bases. Deeds posted 64% in his native Bath County, where Barack Obama only garnered 48%. McDonnell also put up 64% in his hometown of Virginia Beach, which is actually surprisingly low number considering his statewide tally.
The “Who Cares?” Effect: A lot of the Democratic coalition did not show up. In Charlottesville, Democrats suffered more than a 50% drop-off in turnout from 2008 while Republicans saw only a 36% loss. In Prius-crazy Arlington, Dems suffered a 54% loss rate relative to ’08 while the GOP lost a third.
The Albemarle Effect: If Democrats can’t win liberal Albemarle County surrounding UVA, they might as well give up. This fast-growing, uber-educated, fairly affluent county was trending Democrat as the college enclave of Charlottesville spilled beyond its borders. McDonnell won it with 51%.
Coal County Creigh?: Deeds was supposed to win the F-150 Democrats, but he did even worse than Obama in the hardscrabble southwestern counties that are conservative but UMW-influenced. In ancestrally Democratic Buchanan County, Tim Kaine won 52%, Obama received 47%, and Deeds only got 36%. Mark Warner, a telecom executive from Alexandria, got 66%, almost double Deeds.
Suburban Shutdown for Democrats: One of the major planks of the Obama coalition was suburban and exurban independents. These voters did not show up on Tuesday, dealing significant loses to Democratic House delegates in Oakton, Ashburn, and McLean, and to strong challengers in Sterling and Mt. Vernon.
Black Voter Apathy: Deeds was never popular in the black community. In Brunswick County, a peanut-growing, majority-black county in Southside, Obama received 63% and Deeds pulled together a losing 49.5%. Deeds could barely even hold Newport News, where he got a paltry 50.3%.
What it Means for 2010: Rep. Tom Periello, of the 5th District that stretches from liberal Charlottesville to conservative Southside, must be shaking in his boots after seeing McDonnell dominate in Southside – and ever win Albemarle! – last night. This was always a tenuous seat, but it just got shakier.
Reps. Gerry Connolly of Fairfax County (D-11) and Glenn Nye of Tidewater (D-02) are probably OK since they can take assurance that Deeds was a weak candidate, although hometown boy McDonnell will certainly campaign for Nye’s challenger. Rep. Frank Wolf of Loudoun (R-10) is probably sleeping easy.
Ultimately, trying to analyze the Virginia electoral map from last night is somewhat pointless since it was a well-rounded rout from Ashburn to Abingdon. The interesting points are not in whether or not McDonnell won certain counties, but by how much.