So, what has happened since I wrote my 2006 post? In 2008, Barack Obama, the Democratic candidate, won Virginia’s electoral votes. Obama was the first Democrat to do so in 40 years. Also in 2008, Mark Warner, the Democratic candidate, was elected to the United States Senate, drawing the most votes by any candidate in the history of Virginia. In that same election, Democrat candidates won 6 of Virginia’s 11 congressional seats, gathering 53% of the vote cast in the 11 districts. As I said at the time: “Surely, ‘twas a great victory!”
But, it was clear to me that the 2008 victory carried the seeds of future defeat. Dems Heading For A Big Fall. For one thing, I detected an attitude that 2008 was the last important election and that since Obama had won, there was nothing left to do. That was accompanied by a strong sense of complacency. The other Democrats I spoke to were sure that we would win the governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general races in 2009 and that the only issue was how many seats we would pick up in the House of Delegates. On top of that, I was still concerned that the 2008 election had been won by the candidates’ campaign committees, rather than the party, and that to win in 2009 all new committees, for the new candidates would have to be organized and mobilized. And, unfortunately, for us Virginia Democrats, 2009 was as disastrous a defeat as the 2008 election had been a glorious victory. We lost the contests for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general. Democrats lost 4 seats in the House of Delegates
2010 had another election for members of Congress. And it was another disaster for Democrats. Republican candidates reclaimed the three House seats they lost in 2008. Democratic candidates in the 11 House races in Virginia received less than 42% of the votes cast in all the races. (Compared with the 53% they had received two years before). In total, the 11 Democratic candidates drew less than half the votes that they had drawn two years before.
In 2011, the Democratic tailspin continued. In that election, Democrats lost control of the state Senate and lost an additional 7 seats in the House of Delegates.
And, this past year, 2012, Barack Obama was back at the top of the Democratic ticket. Mr. Obama again won Virginia’s electoral votes. In addition, former governor Tim Kaine, a Democrat, was elected to the United States Senate. However, unlike in 2008, Democrats did not gain any seats in the House of Representatives—Republicans still sit in 8 out of 11 of the Virginia House seats.
So, what are we to conclude from the past five elections? First, when Barack Obama is the candidate, he will win in Virginia. Second, when charismatic Democrats are the candidates for the United States Senate, and they run well-organized campaigns, they will win in Virginia. As for the House of Representatives, with the exception of the temporary spike in 2008, Democrats seem stuck with only 3 seats. At the state level, Democrats are still on a downward trend. We no longer control the state Senate and our seats in the House of Delegates are shrinking rapidly. At the state-wide level, in the last two elections (2005 and 2009) we have lost the governor’s race once and the lieutenant governor’s and attorneys general’s races twice.
And, there is another factor—voter turnout. As I pointed out a few years back, It’s The Turnout, Dummy, Democratic voters seem to drop at a higher rate in elections that they lose from those they win. In that post I pointed out that, although the turnout of all voters dropped considerably from 2008 to 2009, the drop was much more significant among Democratic than among Republican voters. As I said then, “Creigh Deeds’ drop in votes from those voting Democratic in 2008 was about 540,000 more than Bob McDonnell’s drop in votes from those voting Republican in 2008.” If those 540,000 Democratic voters had come out to the polls in 2009, Democrats Creigh Deeds, Jodie Wagner and Steve Shannon would have been elected to the three highest offices in Virginia.
We can see a similar pattern if we compare the votes cast for the 11 congressional seats in 2008, when Democratic candidates picked up three seats, with those cast in 2010, when Democrats lost those three seats. In 2008, about 3.5 million votes were cast in the 11 congressional districts. In 2010, only about 2.2 million votes were cast in those 11 districts, a drop of 1.3 million votes. However, the drop in turnout was not evenly divided between Democratic and Republican voters. From 2008 to 2010, Democratic voters dropped by 940 thousand. However Republican voters dropped by only about 400 thousand. Again, Democratic voter turnout dropped by 540,000 more than Republican, and so went three House seats.
Based on these two examples it appears that Democratic voter turnout drops more significantly in years after presidential elections in which Barack Obama is the Democratic candidate, than does Republican voter turnout. This bodes ill for us Democrats because this is a year after Barack Obama won Virginia’s electoral votes. It also bodes ill for Democrats in the long run because, unless he moves to the Commonwealth and starts his political career all over again, Barack Obama will never again be on the ballot in Virginia.
Now, reader, I hear a lot from my fellow Democrats that this year’s upcoming election will be different. I am told that the most-likely Republican candidate for governor is so extremely right-wing in his philosophy that he cannot be elected in Virginia. I am also told that the General Assembly, in the last two years, has enacted so many anti-woman, anti-gay, anti-immigrant, anti-gun control, anti-other good stuff bills that the voters of Virginia will come forth and “throw the rascals out.”
Fellow Democrats, you better wake up. Unless we can get those half million Obama voters who disappeared in the 2009 and 2010 elections back to the polls in 2013, our next governor will be Ken Cuccinelli. And, as I pointed out in my previous post, barring a sudden explosion of Democratic candidates registering to run between now and June, it is almost impossible that we can throw the Republican rascals out ofn the House of Delegates. I am afraid that on November 5, we will learn that no, Virginia, there is no Santa Clause.
So, what is to be done? Stay tuned to this station for the maven’s suggestions.