One of the really exciting things about this Presidential and U.S. Senate contest is they took place under the new precinct lines that the General Assembly drew for their legislative elections last year. With hundreds of split precincts, getting percise numbers in districts was a challenge- but now we will once again be able to see each district close up with their results!
There's no better place to start than House District #1, currently represented by Delegate Terry Kilgore.
House District #1 (map here)
32.6% of the vote in Wise County
32.0% of the vote in Scott County
30.7% of the vote in Lee County
4.7% of the vote in Norton City
2012 Major Party Election Results
Mitt Romney 22,646 (73.6%)
Barack Obama 8,118 (26.4%)
George Allen 21,693 (70.3%)
Tim Kaine 9,183 (29.7%)
Morgan Griffith 19,886 (64.9%)
Anthony Flaccavento 10,770 (35.1%)
UTAH- The state the Presidential results most closely match with. Utah had a margin of 49.3% for Romney, while the 1st Delegate District of Virginia had a margin of 47.2% for Romney.
As expected, southwest Virginia saw huge numbers for the GOP this year, and this district was one of the best in the state for Romney. Scott County led the way here with 75.6% for Romney, followed by Wise delivered 74.4% and Lee delivering 72.5%. Only inside tiny Norton City (less than 5% of the district's population) were the results a little different, with Norton still voting a decisive 61.3% for Romney.
As you move down the ballot, you can see that southwest Virginia isn't yet a total straight ticket area, and voters are still looking at individual candidates- especially ones closer to home. Romney's 47.2% margin here declined to a 40.6% margin for George Allen. The declines were similar in each county- the biggest decline took place in Scott County, where Romney's 51.2% margin was reduced to a 44.0% margin for Allen. While these are still huge wins for the GOP, that's a lot of crossover vote in two statewide races that ended up pretty close elsewhere.
But even with that crossover, Tim Kaine 2012 ran behind Barack Obama 2008 here in percentage of the vote. That movement really underscores how quickly this area is turning even more Republican at the national level.
In terms of analyzing these crossover voters, I don't think Kaine was winning Republicans here. These were mostly "Democrats" who were not happy with the President but voted for all the other Democrats on the ticket. While in other parts of Virginia the Romney/Kaine vote might have been Kaine scoring some Republican crossover, in this district it was Democrats giving the crossover to Romney.
The most interesting results of the night here came in the 9th Congressional District race. In a seat where Romney won a margin of 47.2%, and Allen won by 40.6%, first term Republican Congressman Morgan Griffith only won by a margin of 29.8% over underfunded and little-known challenger Anthony Flaccavento. That's a massive crossover in favor of a challenger- in my time covering Virginia politics it is almost unprecedented type crossover for a non-incumbent. Let me give you an idea of how big that crossover is. 10.8% is the margin between the Senate and House race here. The state of South Carolina, a solid red state, only gave Mitt Romney a 10.6% margin of victory. That's how huge 10.8% of the vote is in crossover- it would have been enough in the Presidential race to make South Carolina blue.
So what happened? Is Morgan showing major weaknesses, or was the Democratic candidate secretly a really strong challenger that just was underfunded? I've talked to a number of people today trying to get answers to this, and heard people take both sides of this argument.
We have no data to prove what happened, but here's my best guess. It looks like there was crossover against Morgan in all of the deep southwest counties, while the eastern side of his district towards the Roanoke Valley had Morgan running above the GOP ticket. It seems the biggest motivator of these voters is unhappiness that someone from the Roanoke Valley in Salem is representing far southwest Virginia in Congress. That may take Morgan quite some time to make up.
In addition to those voters, my guess is there are some Democrats that don't care much for the President or Tim Kaine in this area. The Delegate here is the twin brother of Kaine's opponent in the 2005 Governor's race, and Kaine was swamped here in 05. He's also seen as being very close to Obama, so some Democrats that were not willing to vote for the President may have decided they couldn't vote for Kaine either- but would go back to their party in the Congressional race.
One thing this does confirm though is something many analysts have forgotten about southwest Virginia. As the races get closer to home here, partisanship plays a smaller and smaller role. Democrats running for the House of Delegates in southwest Virginia frequently run above their statewide ticket, and many local elected officials here are Democrats. Voters are willing to try to make that distinction, and candidates who seek their support on local issues are rewarded with visible vote improvements.