Analyzing Swing States: Virginia, Conclusions

(Note: I strongly encourage you to click the image links on this post when reading; they're essential to understanding what I'm saying.)

This is the last part of a series of posts analyzing the swing state Virginia, which aims to offer some concluding thoughts. The previous parts can be found starting here.

Conclusions

As a state, Virginia’s population has always been located in three metropolitan areas: the Northern Virginia suburbs south of Washington D.C., Richmond and its suburbs, and the communities surrounding Hampton Roads. Together these three places compose more than half of Virginia’s electorate:

Link to map of Virginia's county votes

In all three metropolitan areas, Democrats have been improving their margins. Virginia’s suburbs, expansive and traditionally Republican, have shifted leftwards with startling quickness. This movement has been most apparent in the largest of its suburbs, rich and diverse Northern Virginia. The addition of NoVa to Virginia’s heavily Democratic, heavily black cities has given the Democratic Party a coalition that has won a number of recent elections.

Not everything has gone badly for the Republican Party. They have captured a formerly loyal Democratic constituency – the Appalachian west, which voted Democratic based on economic appeals. Moreover, they still dominate the rural whites who in bygone days voted Democratic:

Link to Virginia voting shifts 

Thus, Virginia today is a state in change, like most states. Parts of it are shifting left and parts of it are shifting right; in aggregate, the effect has been to change it from a solidly Republican to swing state. Undoubtedly, other states will and are moving in the opposite direction.

Colorado, the next state in this series, is probably not one of those Republican-shifting states.

--Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

 

 

Analyzing Swing States: Virginia, Part 5

(Note: I strongly encourage you to click to map links on this post when reading; they're essential to understanding what I'm saying.)

This is the fifth part of a series of posts analyzing the swing state Virginia. It focuses on the traditional Democratic base and its decline. The last part can be found here.

In the days of the Solid South, Democrats worried more about primary elections than Republican challengers. The party, under the sway of the Byrd machine, dominated almost every part of the state – as it did throughout the South.

Civil rights and suburban growth broke the back of this coalition. In 1952 Virginia voted for Republican candidate Dwight Eisenhower. By the 1970s Virginia had elected its first Republican governor, senator, and attorney general in nearly a century.

Democrats were left with strength in two reliable regions – the southeast and the western panhandle. These places constituted the traditional Democratic base, which Democrats relied on for a number of decades.

The 1996 presidential election provides an excellent illustration of this base:

Link to 1996 presidential election map

With his rare ability to command support among both poor Appalachian whites and poor Southern blacks, Mr. Clinton performed powerfully with the traditional Democratic coalition. As the map indicates, the incumbent president dominated the southeast, while winning a number of counties in the panhandle. It is an illustration of the traditional base at a strong point.

Clinton also lost Virginia by two percentage points. This indicates something else: it is actually very difficult to win the state with the traditional Democratic base. There are just not enough Appalachian whites and blacks (20% of the population) in Virginia. Take mostly black, heavily Democratic Richmond. In 2008 a little more than 90,000 votes were cast in the city. A respectable number – but barely more than half the 162,088 votes cast in neighboring, suburban Chesterfield County.

Richmond also constitutes an important part of the Virginia’s Democratic-voting southeast – the first prong of the classical Democratic coalition. Democratic strength in this region can be explained through demographics; the region is home to much of the state’s black population:

Map of Virginia's black population

Black voters, grateful for its passage of Civil Rights, remain a vital constituency of the Democratic coalition. They constitute a stable block of voters  for a Democratic candidate to build upon.

Geographically, Democrats usually win a few rural, majority-black counties in the southeast. In addition, black votes give Democrats sizable margins coming out of Richmond and four Hampton Roads cities – Norfolk (the largest), Portsmouth, Hampton, and Newport News. In 2008 Senator Barack Obama’s vote ranged from 64% (Newport News) to 79% (Richmond) in each of these cities.

Unfortunately for Democrats, the second prong of their traditional base – the Appalachian panhandle – is quickly moving away from them. This area is fairly rural and somewhat poor; as the map above indicates, its population is fairly homogeneously white. Until recently, Democrats could rely on panhandle votes even in the event of a double-digit loss. Its residents voted Democratic based off a combination of economic interests and tradition.

As the party becomes more metropolitan-based and liberal, however, the panhandle has been drifting away. The election of President Barack Obama, an ill-fit with Appalachian America, has accelerated the rightward movement. In 2009, Democratic candidate Creigh Deeds lost the panhandle by a landslide.

Map of Mr. Deeds's loss (county lean)

Even in the days in which the panhandle voted loyally Democratic, the base – as has been noted before – was insufficient for statewide victory. Democrats needed to add another prong to their coalition. Mr. Clinton attempted to do so by reviving support amongst the rural whites who’d long ago abandoned the Democratic Party; he mostly failed in his endeavor. In 1976, President Jimmy Carter did much better with rural whites but much worse with their suburban counterparts; Mr. Carter also barely lost Virginia.

Statewide Democratic candidates, on the other hand, have been able to win the state through a combination of the traditional base and a respectable suburban showing. Indeed, no Democratic presidential, senatorial, or gubernatorial candidate has won Virginia, for at least two decades, while losing suburban Fairfax County.

In recent years Democrats have traded the Appalachian panhandle for these NoVa suburbs. This switch has, in the aggregate, been to their benefit. The old Democratic base was rarely enough to win Virginia. With the addition of NoVa, Democrats have won three out of four past statewide elections. Virginia has moved from a red state to a purple one.

--Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

 

 

Virginia Governor Backtracks on Backwards “Essay Requirement” for Former Felons

Cross-posted at Project Vote’s blog, Voting Matters

As Congress deliberates over setting a federal standard for restoring the civil rights of released felons, Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell appeared to be creating more roadblocks to the democratic process for felons in his state. However, after much criticism from lawmakers and voting rights groups in the last few days, the governor has backed down; McDonnell now says  his new requirement for felons to write an essay outlining their contribution to society in order to restore their voting rights was merely a "draft policy proposal."

There's more...

What are Mark Warner and Jim Webb Waiting for

In the next few weeks, the Kerry-Lieberman-Graham clean energy bill will come up for consideration on the Senate floor. While we do not yet know what is in and what is out of the bill, the NRDC Action fund has begun a campaign to ensure that Senators hear from their constituents on this vitally important legislation.

What we are doing is drawing the focus on Senators who will play a key role in the drive to pass the bill. We began last week with Senator Scott Brown from Massachusetts. If you live in Massachusetts, it is not too late to join in this effort. Please sign our letter and post a note of support for clean energy legislation on Senator Brown's Facebook Wall. If you do not live in Massachusetts, and are wondering if your Senator could use a little encouragement, click here and you can post something on their Facebook wall, or call their office. 

This week, as we hope Scott Brown is hearing from folks in Massachusetts loud and clear, we also turn our attention to Virgina, and its two Senators, Mark Warner and Jim Webb. Each of these men is well-poised to play a critical role in getting this bill passed, and they should each do everything they can to make that happen.

Both men arrived in DC with proven records of success in their respective fields. Other lawmakers are courting their votes and looking to them for guidance. These Senators carry a lot of weight and because of this, they can be key players in passing clean energy legislation.

Both men have stated that they believe America should reduce its global warming pollution. Now we have to translate that belief into action.

Senator Webb has possibly the best understanding of America's national security needs in the Senate. Webb served as a marine in Vietnam and as Secretary of the Navy. He has also been an outspoken advocate for our veterans and has shown himself to be an effective negotiator, and powerful leader in the Senate.

When the Quadrinnel Defense Review included climate change as a significant threat to U.S. National Security, Senator Webb was already working on a proposal with Senator Alexander (R-TN).

Unfortunately, he has been a strong defender of fossil fuels and outdated energy technologies. We need to get him into the clean energy camp.

Senator Warner seems to be moving our way. He recently co-led an effort to show support for comprehensive climate and energy legislation. Along with Senator Tom Udall (D-NM), he got 22 senators to sign on to a letter to Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) calling on him to bring a bill to the floor.

Senator Warner is a businessman. After he helped found cell phone giant Nextel, he became a highly respected governor of Virginia. He turned deficits to surpluses during a recession by working with members from both parties. As a result he was recognized as having run the best managed state in the country.

The world is not waiting for the U.S. to get moving on clean energy technologies, and the longer we wait, the more competing nations are able to get a head start. China's investment in clean tech R&D is nearly double that of the U.S. As a result, much of the job creation and economic growth that come with clean energy innovation are already happening in China.

Surely Mark Warner will understand the business importance of making progress on clean energy and not ceding an even larger advantage to overseas interests. Surely Mark Warner gets that borrowing billions from China to buy oil from the Middle East is not smart financially.

Senator Warner understands the urgent need for this legislation in more than just business terms. In September of 2009, Senator Warner said:

"The idea that we're going to, for one more year, delay trying to take on this critically important issue around energy, would be a competitive, financial, and potentially environmental disaster."

But perhaps the most important reason Senators Warner and Webb should be leaders on this issue, is that passing a clean energy bill now would be good for the people of Virginia. Virginia is one of the top recipients of federal Research and Development funding, the state's economy would likely get a big boost from the passage of clean energy legislation. Because of its proud tradition of producing exceptional men and women in uniform, Virginia has felt the strain from the extended and repeat deployments of America's military to fight enemies who benefit from our dependence on oil. Passing a clean energy bill will contribute to a vibrant economy for Virginia, and will make it easier for our military, including its proud members from Virginia to defend our nation.

So lets get to work telling Senators Mark Warner and Jim Webb that we want them to step up at lead on passing the clean energy bill:

1. Sign the letter here.

2. Post a note of support for clean energy on their Facebook Walls: Warner Webb

3. Ask your friends to do the same by posting this to your Facebook, and Twitter.

Thanks for your help, and stay tuned as we encourage more Senators to stand up and lead us to the robust economy, increased national security, and national prosperity that will come with a clean energy future.

Heather Taylor-Miesle is the director of the NRDC Action Fund. Become a fan on Facebook or Twitter.

What are Mark Warner and Jim Webb Waiting for

In the next few weeks, the Kerry-Lieberman-Graham clean energy bill will come up for consideration on the Senate floor. While we do not yet know what is in and what is out of the bill, the NRDC Action fund has begun a campaign to ensure that Senators hear from their constituents on this vitally important legislation.

What we are doing is drawing the focus on Senators who will play a key role in the drive to pass the bill. We began last week with Senator Scott Brown from Massachusetts. If you live in Massachusetts, it is not too late to join in this effort. Please sign our letter and post a note of support for clean energy legislation on Senator Brown's Facebook Wall. If you do not live in Massachusetts, and are wondering if your Senator could use a little encouragement, click here and you can post something on their Facebook wall, or call their office. 

This week, as we hope Scott Brown is hearing from folks in Massachusetts loud and clear, we also turn our attention to Virgina, and its two Senators, Mark Warner and Jim Webb. Each of these men is well-poised to play a critical role in getting this bill passed, and they should each do everything they can to make that happen.

Both men arrived in DC with proven records of success in their respective fields. Other lawmakers are courting their votes and looking to them for guidance. These Senators carry a lot of weight and because of this, they can be key players in passing clean energy legislation.

Both men have stated that they believe America should reduce its global warming pollution. Now we have to translate that belief into action.

Senator Webb has possibly the best understanding of America's national security needs in the Senate. Webb served as a marine in Vietnam and as Secretary of the Navy. He has also been an outspoken advocate for our veterans and has shown himself to be an effective negotiator, and powerful leader in the Senate.

When the Quadrinnel Defense Review included climate change as a significant threat to U.S. National Security, Senator Webb was already working on a proposal with Senator Alexander (R-TN).

Unfortunately, he has been a strong defender of fossil fuels and outdated energy technologies. We need to get him into the clean energy camp.

Senator Warner seems to be moving our way. He recently co-led an effort to show support for comprehensive climate and energy legislation. Along with Senator Tom Udall (D-NM), he got 22 senators to sign on to a letter to Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) calling on him to bring a bill to the floor.

Senator Warner is a businessman. After he helped found cell phone giant Nextel, he became a highly respected governor of Virginia. He turned deficits to surpluses during a recession by working with members from both parties. As a result he was recognized as having run the best managed state in the country.

The world is not waiting for the U.S. to get moving on clean energy technologies, and the longer we wait, the more competing nations are able to get a head start. China's investment in clean tech R&D is nearly double that of the U.S. As a result, much of the job creation and economic growth that come with clean energy innovation are already happening in China.

Surely Mark Warner will understand the business importance of making progress on clean energy and not ceding an even larger advantage to overseas interests. Surely Mark Warner gets that borrowing billions from China to buy oil from the Middle East is not smart financially.

Senator Warner understands the urgent need for this legislation in more than just business terms. In September of 2009, Senator Warner said:

"The idea that we're going to, for one more year, delay trying to take on this critically important issue around energy, would be a competitive, financial, and potentially environmental disaster."

But perhaps the most important reason Senators Warner and Webb should be leaders on this issue, is that passing a clean energy bill now would be good for the people of Virginia. Virginia is one of the top recipients of federal Research and Development funding, the state's economy would likely get a big boost from the passage of clean energy legislation. Because of its proud tradition of producing exceptional men and women in uniform, Virginia has felt the strain from the extended and repeat deployments of America's military to fight enemies who benefit from our dependence on oil. Passing a clean energy bill will contribute to a vibrant economy for Virginia, and will make it easier for our military, including its proud members from Virginia to defend our nation.

So lets get to work telling Senators Mark Warner and Jim Webb that we want them to step up at lead on passing the clean energy bill:

1. Sign the letter here.

2. Post a note of support for clean energy on their Facebook Walls: Warner Webb

3. Ask your friends to do the same by posting this to your Facebook, and Twitter.

Thanks for your help, and stay tuned as we encourage more Senators to stand up and lead us to the robust economy, increased national security, and national prosperity that will come with a clean energy future.

Heather Taylor-Miesle is the director of the NRDC Action Fund. Become a fan on Facebook or Twitter.

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