The One County That Might Tell Us if Virginia is Turning Blue

Posted: Nov 05, 2013 1:05 PM

Two days after President Obama won reelection last year, The New York Times published a story about Obama's performance in northern Virginia's Prince William county, and what it meant for the future of the Republican party in the nation:

If Prince William looks like the future of the country, Democrats have so far developed a much more successful strategy of appealing to that future. On Tuesday, President Obama beat Mitt Romney by almost 15 percentage points in Prince William, nearly doubling George W. Bush’s margin over Al Gore in 2000, helping Mr. Obama to a surprisingly large victory in Virginia.

But what The New York Times left out of their story, was how Prince William has performed in recent elections when Obama is not on the ballot. As I wrote at the time:

In 2004, Bush beat John Kerry 53 percent to 46 percent, with 132,063 total people voting.

But just a year later in 2005, hardly enough time for a demographic surge, Democrat Tim Kaine beat Republican Jerry Kilgore 50 percent to 48 percent with just 66,797 people voting.

In 2006, a wave Democratic election year, Jim Webb beat George Allen by a pretty much identical 50 percent to 48 percent margin, with 88,111 people coming out to vote.

In 2008, Obama beat McCain by the same exact 16 point margin he beat Romney (58-42), with 162,446 people turning out. That same year Democrat Mark Warner crushed Jim Gilmore 65-33 in the U.S. Senate race.

But in 2009, again hardly enough time for a major demographic switch, Gov. Bob McDonnell crushed The Washington Post endorsed Creigh Deeds by 18 points (59-41), with 75,000 Virginians coming out to vote.

In 2010, there were no state wide races, but among the 91,000 votes cast in House races in Prince William County (slices of VA 01, VA 10, and VA 11) Republicans got 52 percent to Democrats 46 percent.

So by looking at more than just two data points, a more complicated story of Prince William County emerges. When President Obama is on the ballot, it is an overwhelming blue county with turnout well above 150,000 and double digit margins for Democratic candidates.

But in off year congressional elections Prince William is a swing county which turns about 90,000 voters, and in odd year gubernatorial elections Prince William seems to lean Republican with about only 70,000 people coming out to vote.

If Terry McAuliffe is able to turn out 90,000+ voters, and win Prince William by Obama like majorities, then the Republican party will be in huge trouble in Virginia, and nationally in 2016. Democrats will have cracked the code on how to deliver Obama voters to the polls without Obama on the ballot.

But if turn out is closer to regular odd year elections (around 70,000) and McAuliffe fails to outperform Tim Kaine, then it should be hard for Democrats to claim any lasting victory in Virginia.

You can track Prince William's elections results tonight, here.

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