As a Virginian, I doubted whether my state was truly a swing state as purported by pundits. The term “swing state” can be a bit fuzzy, so I came up with a definition, which is based on recent statewide election results and trends (2008 to 2015). Based on this rational, the Commonwealth of Virginia seems to be turning blue.
Democrats won two presidential elections (2008 & 2012), three U.S. Senate elections (2008, 2012 & 2014), and the governor, lt. governor, and attorney general races (2013). Republicans last won statewide in 2009. Virginia should be even bluer in 2016 because presidential elections increase voter turnout, which is traditionally good for Democrats. Only 41% of eligible Virginians voted in 2014, but this is expected to surge to more than 70% in the 2016 election.
A Blue Virginia?
A blue (Democratic) Virginia makes things tougher for Republicans. The President of the United States is elected based on an accumulation of state electoral votes, known as the Electoral College (see map). The trouble for Donald Trump is that the reliably Republican states in the South and West add up to only 170 electoral votes compared to 264 votes for dependably Democratic states. The winner needs 270 electoral votes to become president. Trump would need all 8 swing states (104 votes) shown on the map, which is a long shot.
Of Virginia Primaries & Wine
Hillary Clinton garnered 503,358 votes (64% of the vote) in the Democratic primary in March. By comparison, in the Republican primary, Donald Trump won 355,960 votes (34% of the vote). Trump will fly into Virginia frequently during the campaign. Yes, he needs more votes, but he also has Virginia properties, including Trump Winery, featuring the largest vineyard in Virginia. The value of Trump property here appears to be greatly enhanced by his candidacy–some think adding value to the Trump brand is a driving reason for his presidential run.
Of course, Virginia’s Senator Tim Kaine is being considered as Hillary Clinton’s vice presidential nominee. Raising Kaine’s profile helps Democrats in Virginia, even if he is not the eventual nominee. Democrat Donald McEachin will likely take the 4th Congressional seat from Republicans due to a court-ordered redraw of Representative Bobby Scott’s 3rd district, which was described as a “racial gerrymander“ drawn by Republicans. I should add that Rep. Bobby Scott is on the short list to replace the senator if Kaine should become Vice President Tim Kaine. Bobby Scott, who is Black, would be a perfect antidote to Tea Party favorite, Senator Tim Scott, from South Carolina.
Virginia Geopolitics 2016
Virginia Democrats will increase their numbers in the U.S. House of Representatives. Other than taking the 4th district, Jane Dittmar could gain the 5th Congressional district for Democrats. Also, first-term Republican Rep. Barbara Comstock is considered vulnerable in Northern Virginia’s 10th district, where the voting history of the district favors Comstock, but urbanization and minority population growth make it a promising target for Democrats.
No—Virginia is not a swing state in 2016—it actually seems to be a newfound and brilliant blue state.