Obama Landslide, Divided GOP Vote: Blue Virginia in November?

Sen. Barack Obama’s landslide victory over Sen. Hillary Clinton in the Virginia Democratic primary Tuesday didn’t only contribute to the “Chesapeake primaries” sweep that gave Obama a net lead in total delegates to date. It also confirmed that Virginia stands a solid chance of turning out a majority for the Democratic presidential nominee this November for the first time since 1964.

Almost twice as many voters turned out to vote in the Democratic primary as in the Republican, and the Republican vote was sharply split.

“I believe more than ever that Barack is the best candidate to unite our country and transform our politics in the cause of progress,” Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine said in a statement issued yesterday, after Obama carried the primary by a lopsided 63.7% to 35.3% margin.

Kaine was one of the first prominent elected officials to formally endorse Obama, doing so days after his campaign was announced a year ago. Speaking before a record turnout at the Democratic Party of Virginia’s Jefferson-Jackson Dinner in Richmond Saturday night, Kaine said it was “just a year ago tonight” that he endorsed Obama.

The momentum from earlier Obama primary victories on “Super Tuesday” Feb. 5 swept into Virginia like a tidal wave last week. In Northern Virginia, two offices opened up, with streams of young volunteers piling onto the phone banks at the office in Falls Church, and picking up piles of literature to go door-to-door into neighborhoods.

In Falls Church, residents reported multiple visits to their door by young Obama campaigners and at its largest polling place at the Thomas Jefferson Elementary School Tuesday, there were four volunteers handing out literature for Obama, and none for any other candidate, Democrat or Republican.

Falls Church’s margin for Obama matched the statewide tally. Forty percent of active voters in the City turned out 62.2% for Obama and 37% for Clinton. The margin in neighboring Arlington County was 62.2% for Obama and 36% for Clinton, and in Fairfax County it was 60% for Obama and 38% for Clinton.

On the Republican side, the margin for the victorious Sen. John McCain was far higher in Falls Church than in the rest of Virginia. With 24% of the City’s active voters casting ballots in the Republican primary, McCain carried 68.9% of the total in Falls Church, compared to Gov. Mike Huckabee’s 16.4%. Statewide, the margin was far closer, with McCain accounting for 50.1% of the votes and Huckabee for 39.7%.

The tally for Ron Paul, the only other active GOP candidate, was better in Falls Church than statewide. He pulled 8.2% of the total votes cast in Falls Church, compared to 4.8% statewide.

Overall in Virginia, 924,000 voters turned out to cast ballots in the Democratic primary, compared to 475,000 who voted in the Republican primary. That margin of almost two-to-one may be the best news of all for the Democrats, suggesting that Virginia could “go blue” in November.

It at least suggests the commonwealth will now be considered a “battleground state” on the level of Florida or Ohio. In addition, with the nominees of both parties now almost assuredly to be U.S. Senators, the proximity of Virginia to their “place of work” in Washington, D.C., insures there will be a bonanza of campaign action and candidate appearances in the state moving toward November.

For the Democrats, the chances of their presidential nominee winning in November are greater than at any point since 1964.

Not only will the Democratic campaign be strengthened by the simultaneous campaign for the U.S. Senate of popular Former Governor Mark Warner, but the Republican ranks in the state are sharply divided, as the McCain-Huckabee primary results this week show.

As the GOP’s Senatorial nominee in Virginia will likely represent the conservative wing of the party, that candidate will probably not campaign enthusiastically for McCain, if he becomes the GOP presidential nominee.

The current wisdom is that the most likely GOP Senatorial nominee in Virginia will be another former governor, Jim Gilmore.

Still, while McCain has an overwhelming lead in the run for the Republican presidential nomination, it remains far too close to call on the Democratic side. While Obama has a slight edge in delegate tallies to date, Clinton is counting on victories in upcoming primaries in the large states of Texas, Ohio and Pennsylvania to pull back out to the front.