Election 2008

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Jae C. Hong/AP
L-R: Tim Kaine, Barack Obama, and Mark Warner at a rally in Harrisonburg, Va.

Obama’s Virginia Win Cements the State’s Democratic Shift

November 05, 2008 04:29 PM
by Sarah Amandolare
Democratic Sen. Barack Obama defeated John McCain in the traditionally Republican state of Virginia, indicating the Democratic shift occurring in the South.

The South’s Democratic Transition

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Democratic Sen. Barack Obama defeated John McCain in Virginia, breaking the red state’s “40-year history of backing Republicans in the race for the White House,” reported Reuters. Obama earned 13 electoral votes with the win.

In late October, analysts predicted a transition in the South, particularly a “crumbling” of the region’s “racial divides.” Despite the South’s cultural conservatism, demographic changes have been making headway. The influx of voters from other regions, improved educational opportunities and heightened “racial tolerance among some younger residents” in the South were thought to be key factors in the shift, reported The Boston Globe.

“If the Democrats are going to win these states back, this is the year to do it,” said Harry L. Wilson, director of the Center for Community Research at Virginia’s Roanoke College.

An article in South Carolina newspaper the Spartanburg Herald-Journal suggested that the election results “could give way to more subtle changes” in state politics. Many analysts, including Clemson University professor Dave Woodard, said Republicans were “largely dispirited by McCain’s candidacy.”

Background: Obama’s Virginia campaign stops

During the primaries, Obama had one of his biggest wins in Virginia. If Obama were able to carry that momentum into the elections, The Washington Times reported, a Virginia win would “make it very difficult” for McCain to surpass him in overall electoral votes. Obama returned to Virginia in October, encouraging voters to stay humble as the election drew nearer. Virginia had not supported a Democratic presidential nominee since 1964.

In June 2008, Obama made an early campaign stop in Virginia, indicating his hope that turning “the once solidly red state in to a Democratic pickup” was a real possibility. Campaign spokesman Tommy Vietor conceded that Virginia would “play a ‘pivotal role’ in the general election.” But Virginia’s population of independent and military voters would make the race particularly tight, reported CNN.

Reference Material: Virginia as battleground state

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