Over the next few days, I'll be posting my analysis of the 5th District and point out trends to watch for on election night.
In 2000, Virgil Goode switched parties to become an Independent and went on to win his reelection 67% to 31% with a scattering for other candidates. No Republican candidate ran for office. At the top of the ticket, George Bush carried the district 56% to 40% for Al Gore. George Allen defeated Chuck Robb in the 5th district by a similar 57% to 43% margin. A 2% showing by Ralph Nader in the 5th District may have hurt Gore very slightly.
A while back, Ben Tribbett looked at the 5th District results for Bush and Allen to show very minor, but interesting, differences in their performances. It's difficult to put a real trend to the differences in performance for Bush and Allen, but the overall conclusion is that the 5th District's Republican lean was around 56% to 57%, with the Democrats counting on about 43% unless there was a "strong" third party candidate on the far left.
Virgil Goode's performance of almost 10 points better than the Republican party demonstrated the strength of his independent appeal and his deep ties to the district. Here's a short rundown of his performance compared to Bush and Allen across the district.
Albemarle County: 49% Bush, 48% Allen, 58% Goode (+9.5%)
Appomattox County: 62% Bush, 61% Allen, 69% Goode (+7.5%)
Bedford County: 67% Bush, 67% Allen, 79% Goode (+12%)
Buckingham County: 50% Bush, 52% Allen, 62% Goode (+11%)
Campbell County: 65% Bush, 65% Allen, 75% Goode (+10%)
Charlotte County: 57% Bush, 59% Allen, 63% Goode (+5%)
Cumberland County: 56% Bush, 58% Allen, 65% Goode (+8%)
Fluvanna County: 57% Bush, 58% Allen, 66% Goode (+8.5)
Franklin County: 60% Bush, 62% Allen, 82% Goode (+21%!)
Halifax County: 55% Bush, 55% Allen, 63% Goode (+8%)
Henry County: 55% Bush, 57% Allen, 72% Goode (+16%!)
Lunenburg County: 55% Bush, 55% Allen, 65% Goode (+10%)
Mecklenburg County: 57% Bush, 59% Allen, 58% Goode (+0%)
Nelson County: 47% Bush, 50% Allen, 61% Goode (+12.5%)
Patrick County: 66% Bush, 66% Allen, 82% Goode (+16%!)
Pittsylvania County: 65% Bush, 66% Allen, 74% Goode (+8.5%)
Prince Edward County: 51% Bush, 51% Allen, 54% Goode (+3%)
Bedford City: 52% Bush, 51% Allen, 68% Goode (+16.5%)
Charlottesville City: 31% Bush, 30% Allen, 43% Goode (+12.5%)
Danville City: 52% Bush, 52% Allen, 60% Goode (+8%)
Martinsville City: 45% Bush, 47% Allen, 64% Goode (+18%!)
Goode's old State Senate district included Franklin County (+21%), Henry County (+16%), Patrick County (+16%), and Martinsville City (+18%). These were among Goode's top crossover counties. But other impressive showings crisscrossed the district. Strong showings in the Bedford area next door to Franklin. A strong crossover in the "liberal" city of Charlottesville. And oddities I can't begin to explain like 0% in Mecklenburg (because it's in a NC media market? Home county of Democrat John Boyd?), the lowly 5% in Charlotte county (Kelley forgot to campaign?) but a strong 10% in neighboring Lunenburg.
I don't have any public polling of the 5th District from 2000, but I think we can conclude a few major points. First, Goode's over 60% showing was not because the district itself was a 60%+ Republican/conservative district. While strongly Republican for Bush and Allen, Goode's own personal appeal to independents and Democrats who voted for Al Gore and Chuck Robb was able to push him over the 60% benchmark. Second, I wonder if Goode is kicking himself for letting the legislature take out Patrick County and parts of Henry County after the 2000 redistricting. While Goode's crossover dropped significantly by the time we reach 2008, he might have pulled out a narrow victory if he had more of his old base in the 5th District.
Two years later, after redistricting, Virgil Goode defeated Charlottesville liberal Meredith Richards 63% to 36%. This is down slightly from his 2000 victory. This year, Goode openly affiliated with the Republican Party. He also didn't have the enthusiasm of a presidential election getting out the base to elect a Republican President and drag down Senator Chuck Robb. But I've hardly heard anyone argue that 2002 was a year in which Democrats benefited from an "enthusiasm" gap. It's worth noting that after redistricting, the 5th became slightly less Republican. The new 5th, which had Goode give up core supporters in Patrick and Henry to gain voters in Albemarle, Greene, and Brunswick lowered Bush's performance from 56% to 55% and increased Gore's to 41% from 40%, with a stronger showing for Ralph Nader in the district thanks to more of the suburbs of Albemarle. Given Goode's crossover in the rest of Albemarle in 2000 (less than his district wide showing) and in the more African-American counties in the Southeast (like Mecklenburg and Prince Edward), adding Albemarle and Brunswick probably reduced his overall crossover appeal across the district. Not that it mattered in 2002.
There's no polling for the 5th District race in 2004 either, but we can compare it to Bush's performance in the district. Goode won another solid victory, this time over liberal Democrat Al Weed, 64% to 36%, virtually unchanged from 2002. Bush won the district with 56% of the vote, slightly higher than what his 2000 showing in the district would have been. Kerry was able to pull back Nader voters and beat Gore's performance with 43% of the vote. Here's the comparison of Goode and Bush.
Albemarle County: 49% Bush, 50% Goode (+1%)
Appomattox County: 66% Bush, 75% Goode (+9%)
Bedford County: 67% Bush, 76% Goode (+9%)
Brunswick County: 40% Bush, 51% Goode (+11%)
Buckingham County: 53% Bush, 64% Goode (+11%)
Campbell County: 69% Bush, 76% Goode (+7%)
Charlotte County: 58% Bush, 70% Goode (+12%)
Cumberland County: 58% Bush, 65% Goode (+7%)
Fluvanna County: 59% Bush, 62% Goode (+3%)
Franklin County: 63% Bush, 75% Goode (+12%)
Greene County: 66% Bush, 69% Goode (+3%)
Halifax County: 57% Bush, 68% Goode (+11%)
Henry County: 60% Bush, 75% Goode (+15%)
Lunenburg County: 55% Bush, 68% Goode (+13%)
Mecklenburg County: 57% Bush, 66% Goode (+9%)
Nelson County: 50% Bush, 53% Goode (+3%)
Pittsylvania County: 65% Bush, 74% Goode (+9%)
Prince Edward County: 49% Bush, 57% Goode (+8%)
Bedford City: 58% Bush, 64% Goode (+6%)
Charlottesville City: 27% Bush, 29% Goode (+2%)
Danville City: 49% Bush, 58% Goode (+9%)
Martinsville City: 45% Bush, 66% Goode (+21%)
Goode's crossover from Bush is down to 8%, a slight change from the 10% in 2000. But I think the pattern has changed dramatically. Areas in the northern part of the district, such as Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna, and Nelson, have very small crossovers while all three were close to average in 2000. His crossover in his old State Senate district is down outside of Martinsville. Instead, Goode has expanded his crossover in the more rural parts of the district. The changes in the crossover could be caused by many factors. Goode is now the incumbent and should be expected to have the advantage across the district. Weed, based in Nelson County, probably had enough resources to devote to the campaign in the northern part of the district. But with a severe financial disadvantage, it's doubtful Weed was able to significantly reach out to voters in the Southside portion of the district.
Looking back, this is the first sign of trouble for Goode. Goode's personal appeal is on the decline and his advantage over a typical Republican seems to be based on a generic advantage as the better financed incumbent. If a Democrat with real resources were able to run against Goode they could cut his crossover appeal down to zero. That would leave him hanging onto the core of Republican voters, around 56% of the district in the period from 2000 to 2004--several good election cycles for Virginia Republicans. What would happen if you combined a good Democratic year with a Democrat with resources?
Stay tuned for 2006 and beyond . . .