Around the year 2001 I had a chance to hear then Prince William County Chairman Sean Connaughton talk about the changing demographics in his county. He correctly labeled it a "demographic tidal wave". Seven years later, his county went from red to blue in the Presidential race- but what was stunning was the margin for the Democrats. In a county that had been "red" for decades in Presidential contests, Barack Obama won by *15* percentage points.
The next year, Bob McDonnell won Prince William County by 17 percentage points.
Did Prince William County really swing 32 points in a year? Yes, but that's not the whole story.
What is happening in Prince William is what is happening all over Virginia. In 2001, Sean was talking about the demographics of the school system in Prince William (already strongly majority-minority) versus the demographics of the county (strongly white majority). These younger voters (when they register and show up to vote) can completely change what their community looks like politically.
Unfortunately for Democrats, young voters of any race are highly unlikely to vote outside of Presidential elections, meaning that the demographics in a Governor's race in Virginia dramatically shift to an older, whiter and more conservative electorate that looks like the voters we are used to seeing in the old "red" Virginia.
I was surprised to see that Bearing Drift (specifically Norm Leahy) didn't understand that in their analysis of the new Washington Post poll that shows the President ahead by 8% in Virginia this year. They even linked to Jim Riley who mocked the partisan Democratic advantage in the poll. According to Jim and Norm, you should average the 2006, 2008 and 2009 exit poll data to see that the parties are about equal in size in Virginia.
Here's the reality. The exit poll Norm and Jim both cited from 2008 shows a 6 point Dem advantage in the electorate. Demographics alone- four years of white majority senior citizens have died and been replaced by four more years of majority-minority younger voters born between 1990 and 1994- should be pushing the Democratic advantage even larger than 2008. In fact, the GOP is probably lucky it has only increased two points- it should increased three, but the bad economy is holding those numbers back a little.
The good news for Norm and Jim is that the Democratic Party of Virginia has done absolutely nothing to capture these younger voters and turn them out next year in the Governor's election. When these younger voters come out of the electorate again, the state will natural GOP advantage of 4-5 points for the 2013 election.
Sorry to break this to you Republicans out there, but this November's turnout will not be an "average" of the last Presidential and Governor's turnout. The demographic tidal wave that Connaughton saw ten years ago has hit this state in Presidential elections, and baring a major shift in voting behavior, Virginia will be a blue state in Presidential elections for the next 30-40 years at a minimum.
Tomorrow, we'll take a look at how long it will take these demographics to naturally hit state elections held in off years.