Republican Bob McDonnell's bludgeoning of Democrat Creigh Deeds in the Virginia governor's race last Tuesday has spurred a frenzy of speculation about national Democrats' problems heading into the 2010 midterm elections. While it is a bit of a stretch to say that major revelations can be drawn from a race in a state that has a long history of voting against the incumbent president's party in statewide elections, and where 56 percent of voters said that their opinion of Obama did not factor in to their vote, some important details can be drawn from Deeds' loss -- ones that should worry Democrats, especially rural Blue Dogs, heading into the upcoming election year.
Deeds did much poorer than his Democratic predecessors, outgoing Gov. Tim Kaine and former Gov. (now Sen.) Mark Warner, in most of the state. Democrats should be concerned about low turnout of core constituencies including minorities and younger voters (these groups often vote at much lower rates in off-year elections). They also must worry about independent white voters, especially men, who had helped Democrats retake the House and Senate in 2006 and had given Obama a decent proportion of support in 2008 but largely abandoned Deeds in areas like Fairfax and Loudon counties in Northern Virginia. Where Deeds got absolutely crushed, though, was in Appalachian Virginia -- the western and southwestern part of the state. This should concern national Democrats for three reasons. First, Deeds is an Appalachian Virginian himself, yet outside of his home base of Bath County and next-door Alleghany County, he was beaten silly in his home region, losing by proportions of 2-1 and 3-1 in many counties.