During the last Presidential Election there was much talk about "Swing States" that could go either way and tip the election one way or the other. One "Swing State" that was not talked about was Virgina. Most analysts thought it was a staunchly Red State and would go Republican for McCain with little fuss.
But Virgina went for Obama, and the reason why no one figured this out in advance was the same reason people mis-read Florida the time before. Demographics change over time, and States change.
Just as Florida is no longer "Jews living in Miami who vote Democratic", Virginia is more than Roanoke and Richmond. In fact, a huge chunk of the population lives in just three counties - Fairfax, Arlington, and the City of Alexandria. The population of Fairfax County alone is greater than the State of Vermont. And since Statewide votes are counted by the head, a large County like Fairfax and "outvote" dozens of rural counties, as the map above illustrates.
Who are these Northern Virginians? Well, many are government workers or defense contractors, or military personnel. They have a high level of education - most have college degrees and there is a very high concentration of post-graduate degrees. A lot are Lawyers.
These sort of people are not going to vote for idiots. No, they see through Sarah Palin and Donald Trump. Don't even go there with them. But for the most part, they are conservative, and they voted for George Bush twice. As one friend of mine told me, he votes for the candidate that he feels has his best economic interests at heart. Or as Bill Clinton said, "It's the Economy, Stupid!"
And the last time around, the economy was in the tank, and everyone felt pretty betrayed by George Bush. And my conservative friends told me they were voting for Obama. Why? In one word, Palin. When McCain nominated Sarah Palin, suddenly it became embarrassing to be a Republican. It was like admitting to liking professional wrestling.
And frankly, Palin scared smart people. A friend of mine who voted for Bush twice ended up voting for Obama. "Palin scares me," he said, "It shows that McCain has lost his mind." He didn't think Bush was a genius, but on the other hand, Palin made Bush look like a Rhodes Scholar. Getting all C's at Yale is miles above being a Community College dropout.
And smart people don't like dumb candidates. And unfortunately, both parties have tried to "dumb down" the debate to a very low level.
The shift in demographics in Virginia is also reflective of the fact that more Americans live in cities or suburbs (urban and suburban areas) today than live in the country. And concentrations of voters of one party in a small area can overwhelm large, thinly populated areas dominated by the opposing party. Western New York is staunchly Republican, but that isn't going to out-vote the population of New York City anytime soon.
Of course, part of this reflects the nature of the Electoral College in Presidential Elections. But it also has the same effect for Senatorial Elections as well, where State-wide voting carries the day.
Perhaps this next election will not be much of a contest. I suspect it will be closer than anticipated, if only because the Obama Administration failed to learn from the failed Hillary Clinton campaign, and is assuming that they are the presumptive winner. As a result, fewer people will contribute, and fewer will bother to vote. There is a real opportunity for a real Republican (not the fake hatey-kind, or the media darlings) to sway some of those swing voters.
For example, Northern Virginia went for Obama, but that doesn't make Obama a lock. They could just as easily switch their allegiance to a reasonable Republican candidate.
And therein lies the opportunity for the Republicans - to get rid of distractions like Trump, Palin, and Gingrich, and find a real, electable candidate that the middle-class middle-of-the-road Americans will vote for.
Looks like a second term for Obama.....