NYT: Democrats’ Virginia Wins Are Not What They Seem

By NTK Staff | 11.13.2017 @11:00am
NYT: Democrats’ Virginia Wins Are Not What They Seem

Those predicting a massive 2018 wave for Democrats after wins in Virginia should think again.

Democrats are riding high after their candidates won statewide offices in Virginia last week. But a new report from the New York Times throws cold water on the idea of Virginia signaling larger wins for Democrats in the 2018 midterms.

The reason for the Times’ cautious realism is simple: white, working-class voters.

Ralph Northam, the Democratic governor-elect, didn’t only lose outside of the big metropolitan areas, and badly. He lost by more than the previous Democratic nominee, Gov. Terry McAuliffe, had in 2013. Of Virginia’s 133 counties and cities, Northam fared worse than McAuliffe in 89 of them.

True, Northam did better than Clinton had, but only modestly so, as The Times’s Nate Cohn noted. That’s another way of saying that Trump’s success with the white working class now looks almost like the norm.

Patrick Ruffini, a savvy conservative pollster, made a similar point when analyzing Virginia’s House of Delegates results. On first glance, those results look fantastic for Democrats. They flipped 15 of the 100 delegate districts, including a few inspiring long-shot wins. Yet only a single one of those 15 districts had voted for Trump. Republicans largely held the Trump districts, which let them keep control (pending recounts), 51 delegates to 49.

In other words, Northam slightly ran up the margins in areas won by Clinton in 2016, but performed worse than McAuliffe did in 2013 in 89 of 133 counties.

While giving up on white, working-class voters may benefit Democrats seeking statewide offices, the strategy sacrifices state legislatures and down-ballot races where Democrats have lost nearly 1,000 seats since President Obama was first elected in 2008.

State legislatures are the bodies that draw up House districts, and with a new set of maps scheduled to be drawn up after the 2020 census, Democrats can’t afford another decade in the wilderness, making the battle for these voters in the next three years absolutely critical.

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