Virginia elections are a warning sign for Obama

| November 9 2011
Christopher Cook

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As a followup to the previous post, let’s take a deeper look at the implications of the results in Virginia.

First, we have Karen Tumulty (not exactly a conservative voice) in the WaPo:

Tuesday’s legislative elections in Virginia appeared likely to add more evidence — as if national Democrats needed it — that the terrain of the political map will be significantly more rugged for President Obama next year. [ . . . ]

“The enthusiasm gap has been completely reversed in the state. Republicans have it. Democrats don’t,” said political scientist Bob Holsworth, a former professor at Virginia Commonwealth University who now runs a Web site called Virginia Tomorrow.

How tough is the terrain for Obama in Virginia? Well, his victory there in ’08 was a bit of an outlier in terms of presidential elections.

In 2008, Obama’s seven-point victory in Virginia marked the first time that any Democratic candidate had carried the state since Lyndon B. Johnson’s landslide national victory in 1964. Duplicating that feat in 2012 would make his reelection significantly easier.

The political tide, however, has been running the other way — starting with the 2009 election of Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell and continuing with GOP victories in last year’s midterm elections.

“Independents specifically have rejected the Obama agenda, and they are fully supportive of the McDonnell agenda,” said Phil Cox, who managed the governor’s campaign and is now executive director of the Republican Governors Association.

As of this writing, control of the VA Senate hinges on 86 votes:

Republicans in Virginia will likely flip control of the state Senate in an incredibly tight race that will give the GOP power over the entire legislature of the state’s Commonwealth.

The race now hinges on an unknown number of provisional ballots in the 17th district, where Republican challenger Bryce Reeves edged out his opponent, Democratic Incumbent Ed Houck, by just 86 votes. The ballots will be counted on Wednesday.

If Reeve holds onto his lead, then the GOP will have picked up two seats in the state Senate on Tuesday night, splitting the Senate’s composition evenly — 20 Republicans to 20 Democrats — with the state’s Republican Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling serving as the tie-breaking vote when needed. The state Senate was the last hold out for Republicans in Virginia, who already controlled the state House and the Governorship.

If the GOP wins that seat, it will be historic:

Democrats controlled the state Senate 22-18 heading into Tuesday’s election. A Reeves victory, along with that of 20th District Republican Sen. Bill Stanley, will divide the upper house, 20-20 with Republican Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling acting as a tiebreaker. It would mark only the second time since Reconstruction that Republicans have controlled both houses in the General Assembly and the governorship.

Several long-time Democrats were unseated in this near-flip of Virginia legislature.

Everyone is looking for takeaways to hang their party or ideology’s hat on from last night. The truth is, it was a mixed bag nationwide. But Virginia, a state Obama would really like to win again, appears to be moving in the GOP’s direction.

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