Stu Rothenberg, one of the smartest political analysts in this business, takes aim at this reporter’s analysis that black voters were a major reason Terry McAuliffe (D) won the Virginia governor’s race.
“NBC’s Domenico Montanaro and The Washington Post’s Jonathan Capehart credited African-American turnout for Democrat Terry McAuliffe’s victory, as did Jamelle Bouie of The Daily Beast. Wrong as well, I’m afraid. … The 2013 Virginia electorate was older, wealthier, more married and, surprisingly, more male than the Virginia electorate during the presidential race just a year earlier. In other words, it was a measurably more Republican-looking electorate than the one that turned out in the commonwealth for President Barack Obama’s re-election, even with the impressive black turnout.”
“The party’s candidate for governor did not need to improve his showing among young voters, African-Americans, Hispanics or unmarried women. He just needed to get white guys and their wives.”
Those are some good points. The 2013 electorate was more Republican-leaning than 2012:
- Older (18% was 65 and older in '13 vs. 14% in '12),
- Whiter (72% vs. 70%),
- Richer (40% made more than $100,000 a year vs. 34%),
- More male (49% vs. 47%),
- More married (67% vs. 62%), and
- Even more white evangelical (27% vs. 23%)
And, as it turns out, Ken Cuccinelli (R) won slightly lower margins with those groups than 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney did:
- 65+: 51%-45% for Cuccinelli vs. 54%-46% for Romney,
- White: 61%-37% vs. 56%-36%,
- $100,000+: McAuliffe won them 49%-43% vs. 51%-47% for Romney,
- Men: 51%-47% vs. 48%-45%,
- Married: 50%-43% vs. 55%-44%, and
- White evangelical: 81%-15% vs. 83%-17%.
So Cuccinelli was unable to replicate even Romney’s margins, and that’s part of the reason Cuccinelli came close but ultimately lost. (McAuliffe won by 2.51 percentage points versus 3.87 for President Obama.)
But black voters were also an important factor to why McAuliffe won. They turned out as the same percentage of the electorate -- 20% -- as they did for Obama (the first black president) in 2012, up 4 points from the previous gubernatorial race in 2009.
And they voted for McAuliffe at similarly wide margins as they did for Obama, 90%-8% in 2013 versus 93%-6% for Obama. So that’s one-in-five Virginia voters voting almost entirely in one direction. That’s nothing to sneeze at.
Imagine if blacks didn’t turn out the way they did for McAuliffe, especially considering that Hispanics and Asians -- growing groups in the commonwealth -- didn’t turn out at 2012 rates.
The point of the First Read analysis was not to say black voters were the only reason McAuliffe won, but merely one important factor. We, in fact, pointed out that Cuccinelli’s inability to win or compete in the DC suburban areas, for example, was another important factor. Presumably, most of the voters in places like Fairfax and Prince William counties were white, especially given that Asians and Hispanics, who make up about one-in-three people there, turned out in such low numbers.
And First Read also noted that a majority -- 50% -- of voters in Virginia thought Cuccinelli was “too conservative.”
Could Cuccinelli conceivably have won by winning every white guy and his wife? Sure.
And could it mean that Republicans can do well in the midterms by winning just “white guys and their wives” since minorities and young voters traditionally turn out at lower rates in those elections? Maybe.
But, as Virginia’s and the nation’s demography continue to change, is that really a winning national strategy for Republicans? It wasn’t for Romney.
The fact that black voters showed up the way they did was an important factor in McAuliffe’s win that shouldn't be dismissed.
First published November 12 2013, 8:06 AM