Friday, November 09, 2007

Virginia--Color Me Purple

No Democrat has carried Virginia in a Presidential election since 1964. Not even Jimmy Carter, who carried much of the South in 1976, could manage to snag Virginia.

Could 2008 be the year that streak ends? Who knows, maybe Navy beating Notre Dame was an omen.

By the time the general election campaign rolls around in oh, say, March, Virginia may well become a "battleground" state. That would be nice--we'd get some attention for a change.

Indeed, if you go to the Wikipedia entry for "United States Presidential Election--2008" you'll already see Virginia listed as one of about 15 battleground states.

With 13 electoral votes up for grabs, Virginia is worth the fight. It's still a bit early--after all, we can't yet be sure who the major party nominees will be, nor whether there will be one or more credible third-party challengers. Still, let's take a look at the contest.

If you were betting real money, you'd probably want to bet on Virginia still going Republican in 2008, at least if the odds you were getting were even money. While Democrats have made tremendous strides in the past few years--electing Mark Warner and Tim Kaine governor; electing Jim Webb as U.S. Senator, and capturing additional legislative seats in each successive election--the Republican Party is hardly dead. Indeed, all the statewide races except Governor went to Republicans last time around; they still control the House of Delegates; and a majority of the state's congressional delegation is Republican.

Furthermore, moderate, home-grown Democrats like Warner, Kaine and former Republican (and former, former Democrat) Webb tend to do better with the state's broad swath of independent voters than do national Democrats.

On the other hand, the demographic trendlines in the state favor Democrats, the Republican party in the state is deeply split, and there's not a lot of enthusiasm among state Republicans for any of the potential GOP candidates.

Let's say, for the sake of argument, that it's Hillary versus Rudy, with no credible independent candidate. And also that Mark Warner is running against Jim Gilmore for Sen. John Warner's open Senate seat. In that race, Northern Virginia is pretty energized (and might be further energized by tight congressional races for the seats held by Republicans Tom Davis and Frank Wolf). Meanwhile, the right wing of the Republican party is pretty dispirited--not enthused by Rudy and doubtful of Gilmore's prospects. We could see Hillary winning by a couple of points in that scenario.

Indeed, a very recent SurveyUSA poll of approximately 500 Virginia voters confirms our view: it had Hillary beating each of the leading Republican contenders EXCEPT John McCain. In the poll, she beat Giuliani by a statistically insignificant 47-46. And yet she lost to McCain by a margin of 52-42(!)

We're not predicting that Hillary--or any other Democrat--will carry Virginia next November. It's simply too early and far too fluid a situation. But the state's in play. Color us purple!

1 comment:

N. Hanks said...

Saw your blog -- very interesting what's happening in Virginia. Independents are on the rise nationally. Please check out The Hankster.