Will Virginia Decide The Election?

Regardless of all the national polls, least we forget, it is the electoral votes that decide the presidency. An interesting insight into this dynamic is provided by intrade.com, which uses the consensus of the market where real dollars are being bet on the presidential election and other political races. I’ve plotted the “market value” of the electoral votes and here is the graph.

And it’s a very close race by any measure. And Virginia is both now in play as a swing state and perhaps is a presidential decider. Northern Virginia is swinging blue and has for years. And to some extent, so is the Richmond metropolitan area. Surprisingly, the stalwart conservatives in the Norfolk area are even giving Obama a second look. Certainly rural and western Virginia will vote along conservative lines.

But, again least we forget, it was Jim Webb, whose recent close and surprising win over George Allen, tipped the Senate to the Democrats and changed the balance of power in Washington. And now Virginia, with its 13 electoral votes, stands to be king maker and both parties know this. And we Virginians can expect a lot of campaign attention, national news focus, and plenty of close up opportunity to see all the candidates in the next two months. I challenge all Virginia voters to accept this civic responsibility of making an informed choice and to exercise that choice at the polls – the future of our country can be at stake.

Comments

Alter of Freedom said…
I challenge the contention that realistically Metro Richmond is shifting or swinging "blue". If you use the election data from the previous Presidential elections of 2000 and 2004 and throw in the Webb/Allen race for Senate in 2006 you will find that the one area that saw an increased return swinging would have been Eastern Henrico County and also some of the more moderate voters in Henrico.
The Senate race saw considerable drops in voter turnout. In 2004, 133K voters cast ballots for President versus 104K in the Webb/Allen race. This was typical in 2006 in all localities in Metro Richmond. Henrico had 133K in 2004 and only 104 in 2006. Even the City of Richmond saw a decrease of 20k votes in 2006.
The only locality outside the City of Richmond that has historically been close to turning "blue" was Henrico County in 2006 where the Senate race was a dead heat at 49% each, but in 2000 Henrico was won by Bush by 13 pts and 2004 by 8 pts.
The major localities surrounding the City of Richmond have gone Republican outright in 2000 & 2004:
Chestefield 63/34 62/36
Hanover 68/29 71/28
Goochland 61/36 64/34
Henrico 55/42 54/46
Colonial Hghts 70/27 74/25
Powhatan 70/28 74/25
Prince George 60/38 61/38
Louisa 54/42 58/40

In order for Barack Obama to win Metro Richmond, or even make it close frankly, he will need to have increased voter registrations of new first time voters in the City of Richmond and Petersburg as well as make sure those already registered turnout. The reason is that voter turnout in the Cities is historically less than the Metro area where in a Presidential election can be an excess of 70% of registered voters.
The City went Democrat in 2000 64/31 and in 2004 70/29. In 2004, the City drew 74K voters to the polls but again it dipped to 54K in 2006.
I would expect that the turnout could reach 100K to rival Chesterfield and Henrico if the grassroots registration is as effective as organizers say it has been. That would be an astounding 25% increase and a tremondous feat by any standard.
The issue however, is the voter rolls in Chesterfield, Powhatan, Prince George, Hanover and places like Amelia and Prince Edward are expanding and new registered voters is increasing there as well in historically predominate Republican areas.
I can say this because in Chesterfield I broke 100 new registered voters here and have a few more weeks to get to 150. Many of these new voters have come to Richmond from Missouri, Ohio, Michigan and have relocated here for jobs and though we do not require one to register with a Party I can tell you that off my 104 newly registered voters 90% have expressed to me a leaning GOP persuasion.
It would amaze you if you canvassed your Chesterfield neighborhood exactly how many within one mile of your home are not either registered or simply are and have not voted. You have to remember, Chesterfield rarely turns out more than 34% in local elections and only twice that in Congressional/Presidential ones.

My view is that McCain will hope to secure at the very least 27% of the NOVA localities and bank on winning a plurality in SW Virginia, The Valley, Metro Richmond and Virginia Beach. Obama will need to keep McCain under 20% in NOVA and manage at the very least a 47% average in Metro Richmond and Va Beach and nail the plurality in the urban areas limiting McCain in those areas to less than 20% as well. The sheer numbers in NOVA can pull Obama over the top if he limits McCain's % "downstate" where the lion share % though not the number of votes will come from.
That said however, there just is no real data to support a shift or swing in Metro Richmond to Democrats.
In fact, based on feedback I am getting in Chesterfield I would not be surprised if our local Board returns to the republicans in 2012; things like Greater Transit Authorities and such are not sitting too nice with even those like myself who voted "independent" in 2007 and supported independent candidates. Its early, but its hard to fight the "MO" when it gets rolling at the local level.
Bill Garnett said…
Alter,

I appreciate your statistics and applaud your get out the vote effort. However, we both know that it's difficult to be unbiased when selecting statistics to bolster one’s position. I know this is not an apples to apples comparison, but in the last primary 71% of the votes were Democratic and 29% were Republican in the combined area of Chesterfield, Henrico, and the City of Richmond.

As to your voter canvassing, admit it, you were targeting likely conservative voters.

I agree that few residents in the metropolitan area are following the campaign, few have any real interest in politics, and few will enter the voting booth having made a careful evaluation of the candidates. So much for democracy in America. The personality of conservatives is such that they can be more easily disciplined by authority figures and are much more, on average, reliable voters.

The Obama phenomenon has energized a youth contingent that is making a difference. And may have a legacy of injecting some vitality into a moribund Democratic Party locally. I have certainly seen this in the Chesterfield County Democratic Committee where newer younger faces are now in charge. And there may be an opportunity here to hold on, if not expand, the progressive side of the county board.

And don’t overlook changing demographics. As conservative whites flee to Amelia and Powhatan, they are being replaced with low-income blacks and Hispanics - generally Democratic votes.
Alter of Freedom said…
Bill:
With all do respect, there is the data regarding election results from Virginia resources that backs up the data posted. This data was not "biased" but actual results from the elctions held by the Election Board for the elections.

Since when are actual results biased statistics? These were not exit polling datapoints that can be manipulated but actual results from the localities and are a matter of record.

As to the canvassing. I may lean Republican since my youth but have a proven independent track record with regard to voting in elections. I have voted for just as many Democrats, moderates, as I have conservative Republicans. In fact I have canvassed in the very areas where I did so on behalf of Jim Webb and have seen the differing dynamic expressed regarding local, Congressional and Presidential persuasions.

The current polls express this rather definitively. Warner is getting 70% of the vote in Virginia while Obama is getting 45%. Warner a moderate and Obama a liberal. I know people will say they think "labels" are not appropriate but in this case they really are. Obama is no Chuck Robb, Mark Warner or Jim Webb and does not appeal to even the most moderate of Republicans like the others have. That is significant. The same people I know who voted for Webb are supporting McCain in droves Bill and the Democrats had better find an answer to that dynamic and quick.

A second point about canvassing and getting people to register; I could care less what Party they support. In Virginia we do not require Party registration and I am a firm believer in turnout regardless of Party. Why? Because of the exact dynamic I expressed above.

As to "targeting likely conservative voters"; this totaly undermines you own point regarding the area. If the area were actually 71% Democratic as you have stated than these areas canvassed which are Chesterfield; Robious Road corridor to include the Huguenot Road to City of Richmond corridor would have displayed this in the canvass and they would not be "conservative" targets as you sugguest.

As for the data point you allude to I can tell you that in the area I canvass only about 15% of registered voters leaning GOP participated in the Primary. In fact I even know about a dozen Republicans that supported Clinton in the Primary. I believe if I am not mistaken the GOP Primary saw about as many turnout as it did in the Chesterfield local races in 2007.
I believe that if there is one area that will see increased voter participation as a result Obama will be the Frank Hall's district.

Relative to the western sprawl dynamic; any sprawl that exists will add to the vote count in those areas which are already overwhelmingly Republican. A democrat has not carried more than 28% of the vote in places like Powhatan in decades in a Presidential race. In 2000 there were 10K votes cast there and in 2004 12K. In 2006 only 10K votes were cast in the Senate race. It does not appear as though thre is any real factor given in the same period Chesterfield had 110K in 2000, 133K in 2004 and 104K in the Senate race. I fully expect Chesterfield to reach over 150K in 2008.

I take it you think that Gecker and Durfee are acting "progressively"? I am not so sure Bill. They have done very little to limit or reduce spending in the County's bulging budget and feel compelled to support capital projects that will build a 18 million dollar library near Robious Road when niether the Bon Air nor the Coalfield Road libary parking lots are ever full or expanding AGAIN the Courthouse complex with new courtrooms or building a new social services complex at a time when the biggest area of need is our road infrastructure, which Gov. Kaine has reduced the State's support, and school classroom capacity.

I fail to see how "progressive" the budget is nor the Capital Plan frankly Bill. Its one thing to address smart growth and dig the County out from a failed growth plan managed by previous Republican Boards, but if you dig a bit deeper you will see that much of the old is simply be passed off as the new and little has changed. The Transportation Authorities are being challenged throughout other regions and gecker and others seek to get one implemented here through the legislature which will increase taxes and fees in areas like car repairs taxes , increased registrations fees, increase fuel taxes within County and increaed inspection fees. This is the means behind the Transportation Authority. I want to see these leaders make the case for this kind of increases on the average citizen given this economic climate. The Board should be looking to reduce spending as a means of addressing the areas within the budget that require direct need before attempting to waste our taxes on consulting fees and studies for something that the public when informed will not support anyway.
Bill Garnett said…
Alter,

The data I presented from the recent primary was actual data from the Virginia Board of Elections.

71% of the votes cast in the Chesterfield, Henrico, and Richmond area were for Democrats. I am aware of the error in extrapolating this to November.

Virginia polls have flipped several times this year between Obama and McCain. A poll as recently as August 22 showed Obama ahead. I prefer to wait until this Palin phenomenon subsides to get a better sense of where the state stands. And two months is an eternity in politics - anything can happen and Virginia is not as certain for McCain as you posit.
James S. said…
Actaully sir, the first time the polls statewide in the Commonwealth flipped was after the Gov. Palin pick.

Barack Obama has had a five point or more margin since he won the Primary and mosr recently John McCain overcame that deficit and has now opened up a four point lead depending upon which poll source you follow.

As Alter of Freedom has posted in his following of the Public Policy Polls the next installment which should come out this week should demonstrate whatever real Palin effect there truly has been.

I can tell you though the Palin pick has helped in Va Beach and even more so in Chesapeake. And the one area no one is talking to is the fact of the large number of women in the military vote, especially in and around Norfolk where Obama once held double digit margins but now is even. Though this swing cannot be solely attributed to Palin, it must also be balanced with the veteran status and story of Sen. McCain.

There is also another aspect that I see as important here. My daughter supports Barack Obama and she is of college age but does not support the Democrat Party. She expressed to me that she is supporting Obama not the Party. She feels as though he may be able to take Washington in a different direction, but she also like Gov. Palin very much because of what she represents. Her choice surprises me given the fact she is pro-life, but she feels that the real issue for her in this election is having younger peoples voices actually heard for a change in Washington.

While I do not subscribe to her view, I can tell you that her vote is not being based on politics per say and I wonder how many other young people are voting for the person and not the Party.

Alter of Freedom makes some fine points. I supported Jim Webb as well but will not support Barack Obama. As an older voter, Obama has not demonstrated to me anything that I haven't heard from Democrats in the past regarding government. My daughter, fortunately, has not had to live through a Vietnam, a real oil/gas crisis or recalls the complete negligence of our military in the 1990's and alot of these promises seem fresh and new ideas to her, but not to me.

I just do not see how Chesterfield County will flip over to the Democrats at all. You are talking about a reversal of some 50% points at the polls. I just do not see any county in Metro Richmond at this point supporting Barack Obama. In terms of Henrico one also has to remember that Eric Cantor will be down ballot as well and that will help McCain. I do not think Mr. Cantor in his last elections got less than 65% of the vote.
Bill Garnett said…
James S.,

If you will check pollster.com, you will see that the polls have flipped in Virginia at least ten times since mid January between McCain and Obama.

There is considerable disaffection among the military in the Norfolk area over the continued extended deployments and the mismanagement of the war earlier on as well as a realization of how stretched our military is in the light of two extended wars. And a woman candidate who does not support a woman’s right to choose does not so easily persuade women in the military. As the Palin effect wears off, I imagine thoughtful women will see this pick for what it was, a crass but bold attempt to take the spotlight off of the reflection of Bush on McCain.

I applaud Obama’s ability to rally young people who for so long have been indifferent and blasé about the political process. I think most Americans are gradually waking up to the reality of our common dilemma and the fact that problems have been far outracing solutions for many years.

And if you will review the historical polling between Jim Webb and George Allen, you will see that Allen was ahead on polls days ahead of the election. George Allen was an example of old style career glad handing party functionaries and some of us in Virginia are getting a little tired of them and are looking for problem solvers and statesmen who legislate based on facts and rational informed debate – and stop playing these childish political games.

And I prefer men like John Warner, Jim Webb, and locally Dan Gecker to political hacks like George Allen and Eric Cantor any day.
Anonymous said…
George Allen was the product of a smear campaign undertaken by the founders of Raising Kaine in NOVA that transformed the campaign into one that has been reffered to the "maccaca" moment. If you recall Allen was well ahead in the polls and in fact still managed to win most localities over Webb. In many instances, Allen won by 30+ points, especially in and around Richmond and Southwest Virginia. The issue, just like this election, was Northern Virginia.
Webb won localities like Fairfax, Arlington, and Alexandria by avergae of about 66%. Thats out of about 500,000 voters.
Though Allen won Va Beach and Chesepeake it was by narrow margins that traditionally by the GOP there and in fact could not make up the difference from Northern Virginia and lost by less than 1%.
So AOF has highlighted what is the same case this election. You have roughly 500,000 voters in three areas and in the Metro Richmond area you have Chesterfield (130,000)Henrico (130,000) Hanover (50,000) City of Richmond (75,000) and so forth. The population density of the more liberal North benefits any Democrat should be able to keep the return close in the Beach everytime. Its the numbers plain an simple which is why John McCain needs to succeed where Allen failed in Northern Virginia.

I find it very hard to imagine that people in the eastern region will do anyhting than vote their economics in terms of defense spending and the military. I think the idea that they will support Obama in numbers is misguided.

Just like AOF, we both were downsized in the military in the 1990's by Bill Clinton. The region was hit hard in the mid-90's with such actions by the Democrats along with defense industry cuts and civilian jobs with the military. They will vote their jobs and interests. They may not be happy with the deployments, but in the end its either deal with the role of the military and what that means or potentially be out of a job with no other job to go to upon exiting the military. Those of us who experienced this in our past understand one thing about John McCain; his version of the GI Bill revisions were better than Webb's and the Democrats in that it permitted benefits to be transferable to spouse and children and he retainment factor is crucial. Military men and women with families get this.

And do not underestimate the fact that the Surge has been proven to be working and successful and these people are very proud of the service they have provided. Re-enlistments in the Navy are up as well and that bodes well for the Norfolk area military vote as there has been no mass exodus.
Bill Garnett said…
To Anonymous,

George Allen attempted to ride the tide of homophobia, pseudo Christianity, and ignorance that was the Virginia Marriage Amendment, all the way back to Congress. He had the advantage of incumbency and was challenged by a virtual unknown. To contend that a mere blog site and an unfortunate remark caught on video did Allen in is far too simplistic. Far too many Virginians were tired of party politicians and becoming increasing uncomfortable about their own future. And the authenticity and straight talk of Jim Webb was that refreshing.

After retuning from six years as a civilian advisor to the Saudi military before, during, and after the Gulf War, I found disconcerting the authoritarian or authoritarian controlled personalities of the American military types I interacted with. I found it rare to find an open mindfed critical thinker anywhere. And though I empathize with anyone who loses their job, the military drawdown you attribute to Clinton, was well underway by his predecessor as a dividend of the end of the Cold War.

Everyone supports a strong military, and no one wants a bloated and wasteful and inefficiently composed military. And we have been far too slow to adjust our military to the realties of today’s threats. Some military downsizing must happen – and must be accepted just as factory workers who face their own downsizing dilemma. People need to be flexible and retrain themselves for the realties of today’s world and stop clinging to a now gone past.

So after returning from overseas I took up my civic responsibility to become better informed about local politics, and an early initiation was the Shad Planking in Wakefield. It was embarrassing to me as a Virginian, as someone whose family has roots back to Jamestown. As someone who has relatives who have fought and some died in every war this country has ever fought. I was face to face with the good old white boy network that was so easily manipulated by the Republican politicos. Allen was treated not unlike to a Grand Wizard of the KKK, and Jim Webb, a war hero, but an unknown, was given the cold chill.

This is a Virginia that is not progressive, is not the successor to our founding fathers, is not an inclusive, tolerant, and enlightened Virginia that attracts new capita, new business, and which attracts and retains top talent. It is a backwater and an anomaly in the progress of our nation’s history.

I come from better stock and I believe there are enough of us, open minded, independent, educated, critical thinking Virginians who are fed up and say throw the bums out – be they of Republican or Democratic stripes. Throw out this networked body of back slappers and bring in new faces, new ideas, and the possibility of real leadership that inspires us all to come together as Virginians and reclaim our place in our national heritage.
Bill that is well said. When I speak of the traditions of Virginia it is not mere romanticizing, but in honor of some of our foremost philosophies brought about by the likes of Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe and later Wilson.

In terms of the Marriage Amendment, which in your view is divisive, 60 percent of voters voted YES in Chesterfield say versus 70 percent voting NO in Arlington. My guess is you will find this amendment came down right along both Party lines and potentially religious beliefs.

Better still I bet the numbers would show considerable disparity if there was exit polling by age group on the issue.

I believe that by 2030 you will see a modest shift in the perception of such issues in the same manner as we will see the nails in the coffins of racism. We have seen how voters under the age of thirty are largely attracted to Barack Obama regardless of his race. In other words, race is not a disqualifier ,thankfully, in the minds of these voters. Those voters over the age of 65 I am not convinced race is still not an issue. I see homosexuality coming down the same lines as well.

I agree with some points being made here in the comments. I do not see that Obama can overcome entrenched Republicans who have been ignited (much like the Marriage Amendment I might add) in Central Virginia.

I can tell you that the statements by Pelosi and Biden have ignited a backlash by Catholics. Its not so much the issue of pro-life but an attack upon the church that many have expressed a real concern over given the fact those two leaders are in fact Catholic. I am not convinced it will matter to much here, but in Appalachia and the southern parts of OH, PA in those small towns if there exists such a backlash with Catholics that spells trouble for Obama on the electoral map.

I do not disagree with Obama's ability to bring in new voters. I do question whether the Electoral map will in the end effectively bear this out however. Most figure that the entire election hinges on CO, NH, OH, VA as battleground. While I am not convinced, yet, that Obama will win Virginia, I think he will win CO and McCain will win OH. Amazingly, the election could end up in the hands of NH voters.

As far as local issues go I am not as optimistic. I have huge issues with the current budget and capital plans as referenced before. Our budget can be reduced sending millions back to taxpayers if the Board were willing to make hard determinations. I find it rather humorous that you would place such confidence in Gecker given his record on the Planning Commission. Gecker has had his hand in all of the major planned developments. Bill, your talking about adding 15,000 new homes either within the district of Midlothian or its fringes by 2015. We are playing catch up with schools and catch up with the capacity for Emergency Services; Fire and EMS as well to support such increases in population density. Not to mention our roads. Gecker came in lower than the proposed cash proffer fee supported by other Board members, something he addressed at Midlothian High School where I believe you were in attendance at a town hall where he said that developers needed to held accountable for services and that basically the County was behind the curve in terms of the proffer but at the same time he would support impact fees. Gecker opted to give developers the lessor of the increased proffer rates. Now he intends to support a Transit Authority with what I understand will have taxing powers. Unelected officials with authority to tax citizens?

Bill when you have a chance please visit the County site and review the Budget as well as the Captial Plan and evaluate it yourself. It puts things in alot of perspective.

I firmly believe that it is through these documents that any Supervisor shopuld be challenged in the next election. There still remains a lack of accountabilty. There certainly may be better transparency than the old Republicans, but what good is transparency if the officials are not held accountable.

The Board I believe just recently gave the County Adminstrator a raise after being on the job for less than a year. The more people become aware of all these things and how the tax dollars are being spent the better off Chesterfield will be. I tired of hearing how its George Bush and Congress to blame when our local government is equally copable.
Anonymous said…
Bill:
Alter of Freedom has made a great case for the Eastern regions vote in his post today.

Its all in the defense spending baby. All in the defense spending!

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