The 2008 presidential election was a true game-changer for presidential politics in Virginia. For the first time since Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964, Virginia voted Democrat. Likewise, Virginia is one of the most sought-after swing states in this election by both President Obama and Mitt Romney. To predict where Virginia’s votes will go on Election Day, let's examine the latest data.
Romney is leading in the state according to polling data by Rasmussen (+2), Fox News (+2), and Roanoke College (+5). Conversely, Obama leads in the CBS/New York Times/Quinnipiac (+2) and Washington Post (+4) polls, with Gravis Marketing and Purple Strategies calling the race a tie. Real Clear Politics aggregate polling data shows Romney leading by 0.5%. With most of these numbers falling within a margin of error, we must turn to early voting to get a clearer picture of how Virginia may turn out.
Early voting indicates that Romney currently has an advantage in Virginia. As a preface, absentee ballots in Virginia are down by 9.2% from 2008. Nonetheless, early voting is down significantly in localities that voted for Obama in 2008. According to an analysis put together by David Wasserman of the non-partisan Cook Political Report, voter turnout is down 13.6% in localities that voted for Obama in 2008 and down just 1.1% in those that voted for McCain. In terms of raw votes, Wasserman notes that only 185,489 ballots were cast in Obama localities (214,783 by this point in 2008) and 115,908 in McCain (117,224 in 2008).
More specifically, early voting is down substantially in Obama’s strongholds in 2008 such as Arlington (-20%), Fairfax (-20.9%), and Richmond (-13.7%). Comparatively, areas polling highly for Romney are showing increased early voter turnout in relation to 2008 such as Hanover (+6.2%) and Buchanan (+14.5%).
Virginia is not lost for Obama by any measure, but early voting shows that Romney has a slight edge and may very well carry the state on November 6.