November, 7th 2007
A tough night for Republicans in Virginia
– Liz Mair
For those who haven't heard, or are in parts of the country unaccustomed to paying attention to Virginian politics, last night, the GOP lost the State Senate. Three Senators-- Nick Rerras, Jeannemarie Devolites Davis and Jay O'Brien were ejected yesterday, and Senator Ken Cuccinelli also may have been (his race was so close that a mandatory recount has been triggered-- and I'm not sure it's looking good from his perspective).
Suffice it to say that today is an unpleasant one for the GOP in the Old Dominion. The state looks much more purple now than before, and with Democrats now fully in control of redistricting in 2010, in just three years, I think it's safe to say it's going to look indigo, at best, in the near future. Democrat-favorable redistricting was exactly what the GOP wanted to avoid letting itself in for with yesterday's elections, but that's what it's going to get-- and it could get a whole lot more, too.
One of the problems I see arising out of yesterday's results in the increasing blue-ness of Fairfax County. Two, possibly three, GOP State Senators lost there, and it's an area that is getting more and more favorable to Democrats by the day. In addition to this presenting an issue for Rep. Tom Davis, should he actually run again next year (something that's being questioned just now), it also presents an issue where next year's Senate and presidential race is concerned.
Generally, the rule of thumb one hears out of Republicans working the ground in Fairfax in the context of statewide races is that if the GOP can't hold onto at least 40% of the votes there, the Republican candidate pretty much cannot win. Last night, Devolites Davis lost her race with 44%-- above that-- but she's also a more moderate Republican of the type that tends to appeal better in a blue area. That raises questions about how a more conservative (or conservative-looking) Republican, say a Gilmore or a Romney might fare in the state, given Fairfax's importance, demographics, and increasing left-ward tilt. While I wouldn't describe either of these candidates as right-wingers, the fact is, given the way Fairfax looks just now, neither seems well-suited to playing marginally well in such an area against the likes of Mark Warner and Hillary Clinton (especially if she has a centrist like, say, Evan Bayh as her VP candidate).
Sure, Fairfax isn't the be-all-and-end-all in Virginia (I live in Arlington, so have little reason to tout Fairfax's importance), but it is very, very populous-- and the way it votes is how neighboring Loudon County seems to be starting to vote. And that County is the fastest growing in the state.
Virginia is getting bluer, that's for sure-- and even if some of the Democrats elected last night don't look or feel like outright liberals (Devolites Davis' opponent looks quasi-Jim Webb like, in fact), their election is likely to help condition the state towards accepting members of an overwhelmingly liberal party. That's bad news for Republicans, I'm afraid, and the party had better figure out what it's going to do about it.