Destination 270

SMU Students Analyze the 2012 Presidential Election

How Obama Took Virginia

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While Virginia retained its status as a swing state throughout the entire election cycle, Obama carried the state as he did almost every swing state.

The momentum he carried in Virginia was a result of the growing diversity that the state represents, “He did it not only by winning Hispanic voters, but also by winning strong majorities of the growing number of Asian-American voters and of voters under age 40. A version of his coalition in Virginia — a combination of minorities, women and younger adults — also helped Mr. Obama win Colorado, Nevada and perhaps Florida, which remained too close to call,” the New York Times reports.

Particularly in Virginia, Obama captured the enthusiasm of a once red state for the second time signaling both national priorities and a demographic shift, “The fight for battleground Virginia, a swing state that until 2008 had been reliably Republican in presidential elections for 44 years, is a numbers game playing out on a fast-changing landscape of new demographics.”

As the local Senate race waged on with nearly the same intensity as the presidential race, both Democratic wins signify the appeal that the party is making in the traditionally Republican state.

While Obama ultimately secured the electorate votes, according to the Richmond Times Romney fared relatively well, ” The 2012 election unfolded as far more competitive than 2008. Behind a robust get-out-the-vote effort, Romney racked up stronger showings in localities where McCain lagged, among them Chesapeake and Virginia Beach.”

Individual issues swayed voters, “The prospect of automatic spending cuts — sequestration — threw Obama on the defensive in the D.C. suburbs, home to thousands of government contractors, and in military-rich Hampton Roads.”

While each candidate made successful appeals, the president won big on the issues that mattered most to voters, “However, the president countered with an appeal to women and seniors, emphasizing reproductive rights and Medicare, which Romney proposed remaking as a voucher-based program.”

As a growing state, the needs and challenges of voters is growing just as quickly. This rapidly growing state and the demographic changes as a result have made Virginia the swing state it is, “A population boom and its attendant cultural, economic and demographic changes, particularly since the 1990s, has transformed a state both parties had dismissed for decades as a Republican redoubt into a pivotal electoral battleground for the second presidential race in a row,” Mercury News reports.

This growth has been a steady process for decades and the fruition of such changes has come about strongly the past few election cycles, “The growth of federal power, born of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal and Johnson’s Great Society programs, transformed Virginia’s Washington, D.C., suburbs. The influx of people from all over the nation brought in new cultural and political ideas. Where people hunted rabbits in 1960, freeways and shopping malls stand today.”

While Obama won Virginia both of his presidential elections, this does not necessarily mean that the state will be expected to lean Democratic anytime in the future. The Washinton Post reports that Virginia is moving firmly to the middle of the ideological spectrum , “The victories by President Obama and Sen.-elect Timothy M. Kaine suggest that the state is moving toward the middle, but perhaps no further. The demographic shifts in Northern Virginia might be permanent, but Virginians are notoriously independent-minded, which means any candidate can capi­tal­ize at the ballot box.”

While Virginia remained a highly contested state, the changing demographics of the state put the president on the path to victory.



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