One of the items from my 2014 election analysis that’s caught the most flak is my assertion that Virginia may have moved behind the “Blue Wall” in last week’s election. After all, Democratic Senator Mark Warner won his election by a hair and Republicans were winning Federal elections in Virginia pretty consistently up to 2004.
After looking at the numbers across several years, it’s pretty clear that I was actually too conservative. Virginia is as solidly behind the Blue Wall as New Hampshire. For the near future, Virginia is off the map of realistically competitive states in Presidential politics. Until the demographics or party alignments change, Democrats have 270 Electoral votes locked up before the candidates are even selected.
First, look at the 2014 results. This was a historically big year for Republicans nationally, so what did it mean for Virginia? The Republican wave, an off-year election, a very strong Republican Senate candidate, and dismal voter participation almost led to a Senate upset. Meanwhile Democrats lost one seat – that’s one – in the State Assembly.
To put it another way, absolutely every potential combination of forces was working strongly in the Republicans’ direction and we still failed to win Virginia’s US Senate seat or make significant gains in the Assembly. That was the pattern all over the country last week in blue states. The Republican wave moved the needle in places that are southern or rural. That’s about it. Virginia is increasingly urban. With every step toward urbanization it becomes less Southern.
This pattern has been in effect for more than a decade. Virginia Republicans had a good year in 2009 when Bob McDonnell won the Governor’s Office and Republicans won the other major statewide races but that was an isolated victory, largely a product of the Great White Freakout after Obama’s win. It’s the only time Republicans have swept Virginia’s statewide offices the past decade. Republicans have lost every statewide office in Virginia since McDonnell’s 2009 win.
The 2014 wave was not high enough to breach the Blue Wall in Virginia. That state is no longer dominated by its rural, Confederate heritage. Like Lindsay Graham said a few years ago, “we’re not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term.” This election did not change that. Virginia is off the Presidential map for Republicans.