Will Virginia Stay Blue In This Presidential Election?
In 2008, Barack Obama was the first Democrat to take Virginia since 1964. In 2012, the contest between the president and Republican hopeful is still too close to call.
President Barack Obama took Virginia in 2008, marking the first time the Commonwealth has gone blue since 1964.
But it's too early to tell which way voters will go on Tuesday, or whether the changing demographics of Virginia and voter enthusiasm will have an effect on which candidate takes Virginia's 13 electoral votes.
Virginia is one of just a few swing states in this year's presidential election.
“The challenge for the Obama campaign is to try to rekindle the magic,” said Stephen Farnsworth, a professor of political science at Mary Washington University. “You had great excitement among African Americans, and young people especially, four years ago. The indication so far is that there’s some enthusiasm but not comparable to four years ago.”
A Nov. 4 poll from the Pew Research Center shows Obama slightly leading Romney nationwide. The poll showed the president with 50 percent support among voters; Romney had 47 percent.
In Virginia, a poll last week from CBS News, the New York Times and Quinnipiac showed Obama with "a narrow edge in Virginia, leading Romney 49 percent to 47 percent and in Florida, where he leads 48 percent to Romney's 47 percent," according to an article in U.S. News and World Report.
Areas like Loudoun and Prince William Counties – outer suburbs between the Red rural areas and Blue urban centers – will be major players this year. Both presidential candidates have made several visits to those areas this year.
“Elections in Virginia are all about the outer ring suburbs,” he said.
Obama won Fairfax County in his historic 2008 victory in Virginia with 60 percent of the vote, compared to Republican Candidate John McCain’s 39 percent. Obama carried the county by approximately 109,000 votes.
Obama also carried Fairfax City, leading 58 percent to McCain's 41.
“Obama’s well provisioned to do well in Fairfax [County],” Farnsworth said. “The Republican message of ‘small government’ is a real tough sell in a county full of government contractors and government workers.”
Virginia has more registered voters now than in 2008: As of Nov. 1, there were close to 5.43 million total registered voters, according to the State Board of Elections, compared to about 5 million in 2008. But only 4.84 million of this year's registered voters are active.
The state’s population rose from about 7.7 million in 2008 to 8 million as of 2010, according to census data.
And statistics from the Virginia State Board of Elections show the rate of new voter registrations during the first six months of this year has been considerably slower than 2008. By June 30, 2008, Virginia registration had seen an increase of 22.4 percent, with 139,379 new voters. But as of June 30, 2012, only 82,284 new voters had registered.
In Fairfax City, 15,506 voters had registered in 2008 compared to 13,799 as of Oct. 30 of this year.
Both candidates have spent significant time in the area this year. President Barack Obama visit George Mason University in Fairfax City twice in as many weeks in October. And on Monday, Mitt Romney will visit campus as well.
“This election is really a jump ball. A number of people are very frustrated with the unsatisfactory economic performance of the last four years, and they blame Obama for that," Farnsworth said. "But there are also a lot people who aren’t that happy with Mitt Romney. They don’t feel like he understands them or has a sense of the struggle that ordinary people are going through these days.”
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