Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Are There (Many) Swing Voters in the 5th?

Here are some interesting numbers to consider heading into the 2010 elections in Virginia. First, in 2008 Barack Obama received 52.62% of the vote. This was up 7.14 point from John Kerry's 45.48% in 2004. But Barack Obama did not uniformly outperform John Kerry across Virginia. In the 9th District, for example, he received 39.6% of the vote to John Kerry's 39.31%. Virtually identical!

When you look at the Congressional districts it shows a big eastern-western divide. Obama strongly outperformed Kerry in the urban crescent from Nova to Richmond and Hampton Roads. But in the 5th District he was a lackluster 5.29 points ahead of Kerry--his lowest in the state after the 9th!

In 2009 we have a surprisingly similar story as Virginia swung against the Democrat Party and Creigh Deeds. Deeds finished an abysmal 11.37 points behind Barack Obama's 2008 performance. But there was again an eastern-western divide. His best district? The 9th, again, where he finished only 6.05 points behind Obama. This time the 5th was a little bit more "swingy" with a shift of 9.73 points, still below average and close to the same low swing in the neighboring 6th.

What does this all mean? Well, my question is if there are swing voters in the 5th? Or many swing voters? Obama won with strong support among Virginia's urban crescent where suburban voters revolted against Bush's mishandling of Iraq and the economy. Now they are ready to revolt against Obama! But they are a smaller share of the more polarized 5th district, where liberal Charlottesville is countered by conservative Southside. Swing voters will matter less and so will nominating a so called "moderate" to win. Conservatives need to be energized by a strong conservative candidate. That's the ticket to victory in the 5th.

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