A Month Before the Election!

October 8 is already here, where does the time go! Time to update the map. The electoral geography shown on the map (below) is built on the same premises as my last prediction on August 29—large turnout, disciplined Clinton campaign, chaotic Trump campaign, media surprises, and close polls. Polls will continue to roller coaster, based on the latest actual or perceived scandals rocking the Clinton or Trump campaigns.

The electoral map the morning after Election Day.
The electoral map the morning after Election Day.

This map does not feature any swing states, and it is largely based on recent voting trends—and not so much on erratic and subjective polls. A key factor is an anticipated voter surge that we have not seen since 2008.

Based on this map, Hillary Clinton should win with 369 electoral votes, versus some 169 for Donald Trump. If this is correct, then Clinton will get almost 100 more electoral votes than the 270 needed to become President and 200 more electoral votes than Trump.

On August 29, I explained why Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, Ohio, and Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional district would go for Clinton. However, it looks increasingly likely that Missouri and Indiana could go blue also.

MISSOURI. This state could possibly go to Clinton. Why?

Recent statewide votes in Missouri.
Recent statewide votes in Missouri.

INDIANA. This state could also go blue. Why?

Recent statewide votes in Indiana.
Recent statewide votes in Indiana.

Other purported swing states, like Arizona and Georgia, should stay in the Republican column, even with their large minority populations. Democrats have not won statewide in these states in recent years. It is unlikely that the Clinton campaign could convert solid red states, even if the Trump campaign collapses, because of intense conservative propaganda concerning her (and Bill Clinton’s) actual or perceived sins. In essence, Republican sinners are redeemable, whereas Democrats are not.

Of course, a large win for Clinton in November will not end the controversy, and partisan attacks will continue as Republicans look to 2018 and 2020, following the pattern after Obama’s election in 2008. Speaking of 2018, Virginia may have a large part to play in Democratic majority in the U.S. Senate. A Clinton-Kaine win in November will require Virginia Governor McAuiliffe to appoint a successor to Senator Tim Kaine. The odds on favorite seems to be Representative Bobby Scott.

Does Geography Favor Clinton or Trump?

Candles cast light on election.
Candles cast light on election.

In honor of my son’s birthday and before things get too busy at college, I thought to put down a few words—and a map—predicting the presidential election on November 8. These humble predictions are built on a few premises:

  • Voter turnout will be high, averaging 60% or more of eligible voters.
  • The Clinton campaign maintains discipline and resolves computer vulnerabilities. With two successful senatorial campaigns under her belt, she presides over a fourth presidential campaign.
  • The Trump campaign continues its chaotic rampage, alienating key states and ethnic groups. He is a political novice, which appeals to those who despise the “political elite” but is disastrous in a presidential campaign.
  • The media should harass both candidates relentlessly (in their ad revenue race).
  • The polls paint a roller-coaster race, so pollsters can make money (plus polls are increasingly partisan and inaccurate).
States likely to vote for Clinton and Trump on November 8, 2016.
States likely to vote for Clinton and Trump on November 8, 2016.

The electoral geography currently favors Clinton, and she should win with at least 348 electoral votes, versus some 140 for Trump. A candidate needs 270 electoral votes to become U.S. President. A brief analysis of key states on the map:

Virginia. Details on why Virginia will go to Clinton can be found in my recent blog, Is Virginia a Swing State?

Florida. Trump has managed to offend the 3.2 million African Americans and 4.8 million Hispanics in the state. Even Cuban Americans, who normally vote Republican, will likely defect. Clinton has 33 more field offices in Florida than Trump. Independent voters should align with the larger Democratic electorate to win Florida for Clinton.

Ohio. At this time, Republican Governor John Kasich does not endorse Trump, meaning a divided GOP in Ohio. With some 35 field offices in the state, Clinton has more than twice the number of Trump offices.  Clinton won her primary in Ohio, but Trump lost to Kasich. All this adds to the likelihood that Clinton will garner the state, as Obama did in 2008 and 2012.

NorthCarolina BathroomCaptionNorth Carolina. Republican Governor Pat McCrory, deeply unpopular due to the “bathroom bill,” is in a close race for reelection; also, a federal appeals court overturned a new voter ID law. Dismissal of the voter ID law would help Democrats get more votes and a larger victory margin. Another close race pits Republican incumbent Senator Burr against Democratic challenger, Deborah Ross, which could determine control of the U.S. Senate. Currently, Clinton has 26 field offices in North Carolina to Trump’s 1 office.

Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District. Clinton should earn one electoral vote from Omaha, with its large minority population, as outlined in Electoral Geography 2016. The Oracle of Omaha, Warren Buffett, is a key Clinton supporter.


States Too Close to Call (Swing States)

A generic Republican candidate would win the states below, but Donald Trump is a decidedly unconventional candidate and his campaign’s missteps could cost him a number of previously red states, as shown on the map.

Missouri. This state is a target for the Clinton campaign, as it has a history of electing Democrats statewide. The Obama campaign lost Missouri in 2008 by only 4,000 votes. Clinton’s running mate, Senator Tim Kaine, grew up in Missouri, and the state could be won with a large turnout in urban areas; however, this is where Rush Limbaugh country meets Ferguson and #BlackLivesMatter. Democratic Governor Jay Nixon is popular, but neighboring Kansas Republican Governor Sam Brownback is the most unpopular governor in the nation due to conservative policies adversely affecting the Kansas economy–this will likely sway voters in Kansas City and western Missouri.

Montana. Obama lost this state by some 10,000 votes in 2008. Democratic Governor Steve Bullock is highly popular and is running for reelection. Clinton’s campaign organization and endorsements in the state are impressive, whereas Trump seems to be taking Montana for granted.

Indiana. Trump’s running mate, Indiana Governor Mike Pence, could help keep this a red state; however, Democrat Evan Bayh is leading in the Senate race. In addition, the governor’s race is tight, meaning voter turnout should be high, which favors Democrats. Obama won this state in 2008 but lost it in 2012, when turnout was lower.

Arizona and Georgia should stay in the Republican column, even with their large minority populations, but polls show that the race is close in both states.

It’s All About Geography

From a geopolitical point of view, Hillary Clinton will likely achieve an electoral landslide, based on past presidential votes, statewide votes, campaign experience in critical states, and the strategic distribution of field offices. National polls, state polls, pundits, and partisan politics may portray this as a close election, but it should be a blue wave.

Is Virginia a Swing State?

 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.

Map of electoral votes as predicted on June 25, 2016
Map of electoral votes as predicted on June 25, 2016

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.

Trump Winery in all its glory, including VIP guests.
Trump Winery in all its glory, including VIP guests.


Raising Kaine

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.

Senator Tim Kaine stands out (as well as up) in the U.S. Senate.
Senator Tim Kaine stands out (as well as up) in the U.S. Senate.

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.


Mapping Virginia Senate Races, 2015

It’s the beginning of October, and campaign signs are popping up like flowers in spring. This is the sprint season for political campaigns, especially in Virginia where all 40 members of the State Senate and 100 members of the House of Delegates are up for election on November 3, 2015.

Whereas Democrats need to win an impossible 19 seats from Republicans to take control of the House of Delegates, they need to capture only 1 seat in the Virginia Senate to take back control that they lost in 2014. Currently, Republicans hold 21 seats and Democrats 19.

The Senate districts were drawn in 2011 to protect incumbent senators, and so the majority of districts are safe for sitting senators. Most races are boringly predictable. However, there are a few districts where retiring senators created open seats—and some electoral excitement. Also, a handful of districts are unpredictable due to demographic changes, especially in urbanized areas, that have taken place since the 2011 redistricting. Big changes can happen in 5 years (parents of teenagers know this). Those exciting Senate district contests are shown in yellow on the map and described below:
Screen Shot 2015-10-02 at 12.07.11 PM

District 6. Democratic Senator Lynwood Lewis is an incumbent in a Democratic-leaning district. He should win.
Prediction: Democratic hold

District 7. Republican Senator Frank Wagner represents an urbanized district favorable to Democrats that includes Virginia Beach and Norfolk and is almost a quarter African American. In September, Democratic challenger Gary McCollum created faux Republican outrage because he purportedly misunderstood his Army Reserve status; then Senator Wagner generated outrage from the Virginia Black Caucus for the following quote at a fancy country club luncheon: “So it’s a very diverse district. I wish sometimes I represented this half, but I’m very, very happy to represent the folks I have.” Perhaps the candidate who makes the least mistakes in October will win.
Prediction: Toss-up

District 10. Republicans will likely lose this open seat because demographic changes and voting trends increasingly favor Democrats. Almost a quarter of the population is African American. Dan Gecker’s campaign needs good Democratic voter turnout in the Richmond area to offset Republican votes for Glen Sturtevant in the rural western part of the district.
Prediction: Democratic pickup

District 13. Republican Senator Dick Black is an incumbent in a Republican-leaning district. He should win.
Prediction: Republican hold 

District 20. Republican Bill Stanley defeated the Democratic incumbent in the 2011 election by some 600 votes, getting only 46.8% of the total in this borderline Republican district. Senator Stanley is state chairman for Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign, which will have both a positive and negative impact on local voters. Democrat Kim Adkins may have a chance at an upset if the Democratic areas in and around Martinsville and Danville enjoy high voter turnout on Election Day.
Prediction: Toss-up

District 21. The challenge to Democratic Senator John Edwards follows a Republican strategy of targeting Democrats in southwestern Virginia, where Republicans took district 20 in 2011 and district 38 (west of district 21) in 2014. However, Senator Edwards should receive more than enough Democratic votes from the urban populations in Roanoke and Blacksburg to counter the rural Republican votes east and west of Blacksburg.
Prediction: Democratic hold

District 29. Democrat Jeremy McPike should win this open seat due to demographics and voting patterns. Republican Hal Parrish, current Mayor of Manassas, is a strong candidate with lots of money, but the Democratic precincts in and near Dale City should overwhelm the rural and suburban Republican precincts in the west.
Prediction: Democratic hold

The “Toss-ups” in districts 7 and 20 should favor either the Republican or Democratic candidates by mid-October. The last time the Virginia Senate was elected in 2011, a Republican governor supported his party’s candidates; but in 2015 a Democratic governor promotes Democrats (other active campaigners are Lt. Gov. Northam and Attorney General Herring). In any case, it looks likely that Democrats will take back the Virginia Senate come November 3.

Of D-Day & Virginia

On D-Day (6 June 1944) more than 160,000 Allied troops stormed the beaches of Normandy and attacked German troops and fortifications in Nazi-occupied France. The map below, attributed to the U.S. 12th Army Group of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF), illustrates the immense invasion that turned the tide in World War II.

Secret map of D-Day invasion
Secret map of D-Day invasion

This military situation map uses three rectangular symbols to show the position of U.S. (solid outline), British and Canadian (dashed outline), and German (diagonal hatching) forces. A symbol with an “X” inside denotes infantry; above the symbol the “III” indicates a regiment, and the “xx” represents a division (usually 10,000-30,000 soldiers). To the right of the symbol, a number identifies the division or regiment.

Reading the symbols, the map reveals that the U.S. 4th Infantry Division led the assault at Utah Beach; nearby the 101st Airborne Division symbol (rectangle with “AB” inside) represents some 6,000 men dropped behind enemy lines. To the east, the 115th, 116th, and 16th regiments spearheaded the attack on Omaha Beach. Continuing east, units of the British 3rd, 6th, and 50th divisions and the Canadian 3rd Division (CDN inside symbol) captured Gold, Juno, and Sword Beaches. The map serves as a cartographic snapshot for a pivotal day in the liberation of Europe.

Storming the beaches of Normandy June 6, 1944.
Storming the beaches of Normandy June 6, 1944.

Remembering D-Day in Bedford, Virginia

Most people have not heard of Bedford, Virginia, but it is where the The National D-Day Memorial helped my family visualize the feelings and sacrifices experienced 71 years ago. The statues and design of the Memorial (below), nestled in the Virginia mountains, stirs the emotions of young and old alike, as it gives a glimpse of that fateful day on the faraway beaches of Normandy

Water bursts simulate enemy fire, as soldier statues hit the beach.
Soldier statues on the cliffs of Normandy.
Soldier statues on the cliffs of Normandy.

Electoral Geography 2016

Came across an article, “The Map: 11 Angles on the Electoral College,” on Sabato’s Crystal Ball site. As a geographer at Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA), I love titles like this. I eagerly read Sabato’s 2016 predictions, which included several major points:

  1. In the 4 presidential elections from 2000 to 2012, only 10 of 50 states changed their electoral vote: Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, and Virginia.
  2. Practically speaking, the GOP doesn’t have a path to victory without Florida and Ohio.
  3. Could Wisconsin go Republican if Scott Walker were the 2016 nominee? The article points out that Walker’s mid-term victories in 2010 and 2014, and recall election in 2012, averaged a 55% voter turnout. The state’s presidential turnout in 2012 was 73%, which means Walker would face a much larger and more Democratic electorate in his state.
  4. It would be hard for the Republicans to win the White House without Virginia, which is seen as a toss-up state.
Map 1. Predictions according to Larry Sabato, University of Virginia
Map 1. Predictions according to Larry Sabato, University of Virginia

Virginia’s Color on Sabato’s Map

Is Virginia really a “Toss-up” state? Probably not, based on recent elections:

  • Republicans have not won a statewide office since 2009, in both low and high turnout elections.
  • Virginia’s Governor, Lt. Governor, Attorney General, and both U.S. Senators are all Democrats. Republicans do not hold a statewide office.
  • The Republican U.S. Senate wave in 2014 did not unseat Democratic Senator Mark Warner, despite a low 41% voter turnout (compared to 73% for a presidential election) and Republican-passed voter restrictions.
  • Maps of electoral geography show that Virginia is favorable to Democrats, as is Fairfax County, Virginia’s most populous county.

For these reasons, it seems that Virginia leans to Democrats and should be a “Leans D” blue on Sabato’s map (see Map 1 above).

In essence, Virginia has transitioned from a Toss-up to a Democratic state, albeit a fragile one. West Virginia has made the reverse transformation since 2000, going from a dependably Democratic state to a reliably Republican one.

A Small Part of Nebraska Leaning to Democrats?

Only Nebraska and Maine can split their electoral votes. I would add Nebraska to electoral vote “Toss-ups” in Sabato’s map (see Map 1 above), because one of its 2008 electoral votes went to Obama. The 2nd Congressional District (Omaha) is increasingly Democratic, despite alleged Republican gerrymandering in 2011.

In 2014, Democrat Brad Ashford defeated the Republican incumbent, Lee Terry, who held the 2nd District for 16 years. This indicates that the single electoral vote for Nebraska’s 2nd District (NE-2) could again swing to Democrats in 2016. I would think that the NE-2 box should be a toss-up yellow—instead of the “Likely R” red that is presently on the map.

A Difficult Republican Path to the Presidency

By adding Nebraska’s 1 electoral vote (NE-2) to the Toss-up category and Virginia’s 13 electoral votes to Democrats, new totals for Sabato’s map would be:

     Democrats: 260; Toss-ups: 73; Republicans: 205

Republicans will need to focus on Florida and Ohio. The Republican National Convention in Ohio reflects a Midwest strategy. The Democratic National Convention is in Pennsylvania, which Republicans see as a potential swing state in 2016, yet it has not voted for a GOP presidential candidate since 1988.

I have drawn up a map (see Map 2 below) that (I humbly think) accurately illustrates the narrow path to victory for Republican candidates. On this map, the GOP needs to capture all 6 toss-up states to get above 270 electoral votes (the winning magic number). Democrats, on the other hand, only have to take 1 or 2 toss-up states to win.

Map 2. Predictions based on changes to Virginia & Nebraska.
Map 2. Predictions based on changes to Virginia & Nebraska.


Senator Ebbin Comes to Alexandria

State Senator Adam Ebbin came to the Alexandria campus to talk to Professor David Miller’s Cultural Geography (Geo 210) class on Thursday, March 19. Senator Ebbin represents the 30th district (parts of Alexandria, Arlington, and Fairfax) as a Democratic member of the Virginia Senate. His district borders the Potomac River from National Airport to Mount Vernon and includes part of NOVA’s Alexandria campus. He spoke to students about gerrymandering, the Virginia Senate, and his bills in the recent legislative session.

Virginia State Senator Adam Ebbin
Virginia State Senator Adam Ebbin

Ebbin explained that gerrymandering is the drawing of electoral district boundaries in awkward shapes to make the districts safe for the party in power. In 2011, when the districts were drawn, Republicans controlled the governor’s mansion, Virginia House of Delegates, and the Virginia Senate. Therefore, the process of drawing new districts, or redistricting, tended to favor Republicans.

Geography students listen to Senator Ebbin talk about the map of his district.
Geography students listen to Senator Ebbin talk about the map of his district.

Virginia is a purple state with roughly equal populations of Republicans and Democrats, but the power of gerrymandering gives an edge to Senate Republicans, who hold 21 seats versus 19 seats for Democrats. Democratic voters are packed into Senator Ebbin’s elongated district, making districts to the south and west safe for Republicans. Each state senator represents about 200,000 people, and all 40 senators will be up for election in November 2015.

Senator Ebbin explains the legislative process.
Senator Ebbin explains the legislative process.

Senator Ebbin also discussed a number of his bills, including ones for cleaner energy, mass transit funding, and protections against discrimination in state employment. He highlighted his sponsorship of Senate Joint Resolution 337 commending Dr. Robert Templin for his 13 years of service as President of Northern Virginia Community College.

After his presentation, Senator Ebbin met with Dr. Jimmie McClellan, Dean of Liberal Arts, and Marcus Henderson, Community Outreach Specialist.

The Midwest: Key to Senate Control in 2014

Many people focus on the South when talking about Senate control in the November 4, 2014 elections. Republican campaigns and PACs have spent tens of millions of dollars on Senate races in the South: Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, and North Carolina. However, it is the Midwest region that may be key to the balance of power between Democrats and Republicans in the Senate, with 5 key elections in Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, and South Dakota (shown in brown and green on the map below).



Republican Senate Plans & Assumptions

First, let’s take a quick look at Republican strategy for Senate control in 2014, which has largely been parroted by the media and pundits, such as The Washington Post and Virginia’s vintage political prognosticator Larry Sabato. According to their plans, the GOP could take Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Louisiana, Montana, North Carolina, and West Virginia, while holding all their existing seats for a gain of 8 seats.

The 8-seat gain is based on pretty simple math. Of course, Senate elections are far more complex. As of early October, North Carolina looks like a lost cause for Republicans, South Dakota has a vulnerable Republican candidate, and Republicans incumbents could lose in Kansas and Kentucky. Suddenly, Republicans could gain just 6 Democratic seats and maybe lose 2 seats for a net gain of only 4 seats (Republicans need 6 seats to take control of the Senate).

At times, Republicans even arrogantly claimed that Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, and Virginia would fall to them, but Democratic candidates in these states are considered reasonably safe as of early October. The Republican brand has seen growing difficulty in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions (other than West Virginia).

Republicans are also assuming lower voter turnout for an off-year election. Some 130 million voters cast their ballots in 2008 and 2012, but only about 90 million voted in 2010. Republicans gained 6 Senate seats in 2010, but lost 8 seats in 2008 and 2 seats in 2012. It is generally considered that lower voter turnout favors Republicans, and that is why Republican-controlled states have passed voter-ID laws, which often discourage minorities and college students from voting.

Finally, Republicans hold the advantage in that they are defending only 15 Senate seats compared to 21 for Democrats. However, Republicans are expected to defend 24 seats in 2016, versus only 10 for Democrats. In other words, Republicans will have little hope of taking the Senate in 2016, if they fall short in 2014.

The Midwest Upsets Republican Plans: Starting in Kansas

The three-way race for Kansas’s Senate seat felt a geopolitical quake in early September, when Democratic candidate Chad Taylor dropped out of the race, leaving incumbent Senator Pat Roberts (R) facing Independent candidate Greg Orman. Non-partisan polls indicate that Republicans will likely lose this seat. Orman intends to caucus with the majority party, but Republican attack ads may spoil any future relationship.

The map (above) show a series of toss-up Midwestern states (brown) swirling around Kansas:

South Dakota. Republicans took neighboring North Dakota for granted in 2012 and lost the Senate seat to Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp. Currently, there is a three-way race to succeed Democratic Senator Tim Johnson, who is retiring. Mike Rounds, the Republican, leads with only 35% of the vote, while Democrat Rick Weiland and Independent candidate Larry Pressler continue to gain. Like Pat Roberts in Kansas, polls show Mike Rounds to be unpopular, and this race could become quite close. Should Pressler win, along with Orman in Kansas, the number of Independents in the Senate would double to 4 — a storybook outcome at a time when voters are unhappy with both political parties.

Iowa. U.S. Representative Bruce Braley (D) is running against state Senator Joni Ernst (R) to succeed retiring Senator Tom Harkin (D). Braley’s base in northeast Iowa exhibits urban and rural constituencies; Ernst is from rural, conservative southwestern Iowa. Des Moines, in Polk County at the center of the state, is the electoral prize for both candidates. Geographically, eastern Iowa will favor Braley and western Iowa will go for Ernst. This will likely be a nail-biter election, but I give a slight edge to Braley.

Kentucky. Polls show that incumbent Republican Senator Mitch McConnell is struggling in his race against Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes. McConnell is unpopular in polls, and tea party support is gone or unenthusiastic. Mitch McConnell has a host of geopolitical vulnerabilities, which I covered in June. Kentucky is usually one of the first states to report election results, but November 4 could be a long night.

Colorado. Senator Mark Udall is purportedly on the ropes, according to conservative commentators, but the state that legalized recreational marijuana last year is not likely to go conservative in a statewide election. Udall should pull in enough votes from Denver, Boulder, and central Colorado to win. Republican Cory Gardner, in the U.S. House of Representatives since 2011, will sweep his rural district in eastern Colorado and will do well in the far western counties, but this will likely not be enough to win the election.

The Independent Midwest and Senate Control 

If Republicans win in all 4 of the toss-up Midwest elections (in brown on the map), then they will gain 7 seats; however, if the GOP loses all four then they will only gain 3 seats. Assuming that Republicans win in other regions of the country and that Kansas goes to Independent candidate Greg Orman, Republicans need to take 3 of the 4 Midwestern Senate seats to win the Senate (a tall order). Also, there will be Senate uncertainty, pending any general runoff election in Louisiana (December 6, 2014) and Georgia (January 6, 2015).

In the end, it appears that Republicans will not take the Senate outright and that control of the Senate may not be determined until 2015, depending on runoff elections and negotiations with Independents in the Senate.

Who Will Win Virginia’s 8th Congressional District Primary, June 10?


First of all, there are a lot of good Democratic candidates vying for the right to succeed Congressman Jim Moran, who is retiring. I have met some of the candidates, been to some forums, reviewed campaign sites, and seen countless brochures.

Candidate stickers and 8th district map
Candidate stickers and 8th district map

Geographical Advantage to Patrick Hope

The candidate favored to win the June 10 primary seems to be former Lt. Governor Don Beyer. He certainly has the money and the political connections to win, but I think Delegate Patrick Hope may pull an upset win. Why does Hope look so good electorally? As a geographer, I look at geopolitical patterns and trends and see some advantages:

  • Hope has won three elections to his House of Delegates district (47th) since 2009.
  • His Arlington district holds some 60,000 voters; he is the only candidate from Arlington.
  • Hope’s primary rivals are all from Alexandria, which will divide the Alexandria vote.
  • @TeamHopeVA & http://www.hopeforcongress.comshow Hope campaigning throughout the 8th.
  • Hope tried to visit all 159 precincts in the 8th; he even broke a rib after misjudging some stairs while visiting the Woodlawn area (Fairfax) on May 25.


Message Advantage to Patrick Hope

From forums to campaign literature, Hope has a simple message. He is an expert on health care, embraces the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), and wants to make it work for Virginians. His May 25 rib injury took him off the campaign trail, but it gave him a media opportunity to talk health care while recovering at the Virginia Hospital Center.

He is passionate but concise, and voters who have heard him like what he has to say. He prefers to listen, rather than talk—and voters like that too. Finally, he is a former Capitol Hill staffer, who knows how the Hill can work (but often doesn’t).

What About $Money?

It is true that Patrick Hope has not raised the most money for the June primary, based on recent figures, but he has shown that money isn’t everything. In 2009, Hope ran against four other candidates in a Democratic primary. As you can see on the Virginia Public Access Project table below, he got the most votes without raising the most money.

Hope: Less Money More Votes
Hope: Less Money More Votes

Who Will Vote in the Primary?

The older and more affluent Democratic establishment seems to support Beyer; but Vaclav Havel, former President of Czechoslovakia, perhaps put it best when he said:

None of us know all the potentialities that slumber in the spirit of the population, or all the ways in which that population can surprise us when there is the right interplay of events.

Such is the nature of primary elections. Given the overwhelming Democratic population in the 8th, the primary winner will win the November election. Remember to vote on June 10!

A NOVA Geographer in Tampa

The 2014 annual meeting of the Association of American Geographers (AAG) offered opportunities to meet scholars from all over the world and gain new geographic insights. I attended sessions on themes ranging from “Kurdish Geopolitics” to “Human Dynamics in the Mobile Age.”

Screen shot 2014-04-20 at 11.24.21 PMOn April 10, I presented a paper, “Visualizing Geopolitics: Virginia’s Elections,” in a session titled, “Cultural Geography of the American South.” Other papers in the session dealt with Georgia, Mississippi, and New Orleans. I started with the statement, “In 2008, Virginia voted for a Democrat (Barack Obama), breaking a Republican voting pattern that began in 1968.”

My AAG paper featured graphics done for the NOVA Institute for Public Service and its blog regarding the November 2013 elections in Virginia, in which Democratic candidates swept statewide offices for Governor, Lt. Governor, and Attorney General for the first time since 1989. Democrats currently hold all five statewide offices, including both U.S. Senate seats, which has not happened since 1968.

VirginaGovElection 2013

My presentation included a map (above) of Virginia, showing election results by city and county. At first glance, it looks like Mr. Cuccinelli should have won because most of Virginia is red, but a closer look reveals that Mr. McAuliffe captured 12 of Virginia’s most populous counties and cities—versus 5 for Mr. Cuccinelli. Virginia’s largest county, Fairfax, gave Mr. McAuliffe some 68,000 more votes than his rival. Democratic votes from cities and urban counties can overwhelm the relatively small number of Republican votes from sparsely populated regions. In western and southwestern Virginia, 11 counties stretching from Highland to Lee along the Virginia border gave Ken Cuccinelli a total of only 30,770 votes.

Terry McAuliffe campaigned throughout Virginia and was elected governor by accumulating votes from:

  • urban areas—especially Northern Virginia, Hampton Roads, and Richmond
  • university campuses (he visited all 23 community colleges)
  • rural counties with high minority populations

For example, the southwestern Virginia county of Montgomery, home to Virginia Tech, gave Terry McAuliffe 10,689 votes. Rural Brunswick County in southern Virginia, which is 57% black, provided Mr. McAuliffe with 2,704 votes.

My paper’s conclusion? The Commonwealth of Virginia, once a dependable red state for Republicans, has become a purple state; one that is increasingly favorable for Democratic candidates. Some 50 attendees were at the session, and questions focused on the Senator Mark Warner’s 2014 reelection bid. I explained that geopolitical trends indicate Senator Warner’s should easily win because he is popular throughout the state — even in Republican strongholds like southwestern Virginia.

The 2014 AAG Annual Meeting was a great learning experience, and I would like to thank NOVA’s Professional Development Committee. Their grant awards program made this trip possible.