Terry McAuliffe's narrow win Tuesday to become governor of Virginia was the result of the changing and growing population of Northern Virginia. It was also the product of an electorate just as diverse—though not as large—as the ones that twice elected Barack Obama, according to analysts.
"There's been eight high-profile state-wide races in Virginia since 2005. Democrats have now won seven of those eight contests," Ruy Teixeira, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, said on a call Thursday about turnout in the commonwealth. "Three senate races, two presidential contests, two of three gubernatorial contests. The only exception was [Governor Bob] McDonnell's victory in 2009."
That year, Virginia voters were 78 percent white and 22 percent minority. This year, they were 72 percent white and 28 percent minority—a change that made enough of a difference to once again throw the race to the Ds. The McAuliffe campaign ran a careful targeting effort to get voters to the polls and make sure that this year's electorate was more diverse than 2009's, according to Politico's debrief with the campaign's pollsters.
It worked. With McAuliffe's victory, Virginia can now be looked at as "sort of a purple state leaning blue," said Teixeira, co-author of 2002's The Emerging Democratic Majority. That book predicted that changes in the demographics of the electorate would ultimately swing red states into the blue column; those shifts took some time to show up, but now that they are here they show little sign of abating.