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Fairfax had been moving toward the Democrats, but the transformation of the two fastest-growing counties of the region was more dramatic. Loudoun, one of the most rapidly expanding counties in the nation, and Prince William County had both produced comfortable margins for George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004, but began moving to the Democrats in 2005, and gave Obama wins of 9 and 16 percent, respectively. Both had seen their rapidly growing populations diversify far more than the traditional new suburb, and both were looking to government to address problems of growth, housing, education, and transportation. In Hampton Roads, the state’s largest “city,” the urbanizing but still suburban Virginia Beach and its neighboring suburban cities of Chesapeake and Suffolk also improved their Democratic vote. Kerry had lost all three, coming closest in Suffolk. Obama carried two of the three, losing Virginia Beach by less than 1 percent. Combined with the votes from the central cities, the Democrats won the region easily. Even in the Richmond suburbs , long considered unassailable GOP turf, signs of erosion emerged. The three major suburban counties of Chesterfield, Hanover, and Henrico had all supported Bush in 2004 with a combined margin of 66,000 votes. Obama carried Henrico, the oldest and most diverse of the suburbs, with 56 percent and reduced the Democratic deficit in the three counties to 12,000, a margin that more than offset the Richmond city vote. College cities and counties also produced much better results for Obama than Kerry. Increased turnout and movement to the Democrats resulted in landslides in Williamsburg, Fredericksburg, and Charlottesville , and flipped Harrisonburg city and Montgomery County from red to blue. In Lynchburg, the mobilization of Liberty students may have saved the city for McCain, as votes for both parties increased significantly. Outcomes in rural counties varied. Those in the eastern and southern portions of the state and those with significant African American populations generally saw a surge for the Democrat, as reflected in votes in Essex, Halifax, and Southampton counties. Western counties with few black residents saw only modest gains at best for Obama, and in some cases, like Lee, Scott, and Tazewell counties, a decline in both Democratic percentage and absolute votes in places with little if any voter turnout increase. Despite Obama’s visits, support from popular local figures (like bluegrass legend Ralph Stanley), and active endorsement from the United Mine Workers Union, McCain carried the southwest and the reliably Republican Shenandoah Valley handily, if without enthusiasm. 230 ★ John J. McGlennon Democrats Gain in Other Contests If there was any question about the partisan nature of the 2008 election, it was settled in contests for the United States Senate and House of Representatives (see Table 13.1). The upset victory by Senator Jim Webb in 2006 over George Allen had resulted in a nine to four Republican advantage in the commonwealth’s congressional delegation. Coming out of the 2008 contests, Democrats claimed an eight to five advantage. U.S. Senate The fall campaign between two former governors to replace retiring Republican John Warner in the U.S. Senate provided little suspense. From the announcement that the Democratic Mark Warner would seek the seat, he had been the prohibitive favorite. Leaving office with broad public approval, and having made a generally positive impression in his exploratory presidential campaign, Warner outraised his Republican predecessor, Jim Gilmore, by a margin of six to one, and highlighted his support from prominent Republicans and independents. Warner’s endorsements from former GOP legislative leaders in Richmond were particularly telling, as they contrasted Warner’s “problem solving” approach to the confrontational style of Gilmore. Given his landslide wins in two statewide races (for attorney general and governor) in the 1990s, his service as George W. Bush’s first Republican National Committee chairman, and his own presidential campaign, Gilmore’s performance may have seemed puzzling from outside the commonwealth . In Virginia, his candidacy elicited little enthusiasm. Among the Republican legislative and business establishment, there was some satisfaction in the opportunity to watch Gilmore suffer a humiliating defeat. Warner had the luxury of a united party, crosspartisan support, and a prominence on the national stage. Obama selected him to deliver the national convention keynote address, the same showcase that had propelled the Illinois senator to political stardom. Warner’s performance, laying out a path of pragmatic problem-solving keyed to technological and educational promotion, produced reviews more typical of such speeches, but afforded a relatively young politician a priceless introduction...


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