The Swing Counties, and How They Swung

By Tim Craig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 13, 2008


In July, Virginia Notebook published a list of 10 Virginia locations that were likely to be up for grabs in the presidential race between Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

At the time, many pundits thought it would be an uphill climb for Obama to become the first Democratic nominee in 44 years to carry Virginia. For Obama to win, he needed to carry many of the 10 locations that we wrote about in the summer.

Now that the election is over, it's time to review the results in those counties and cities. Obama carried seven of them, helping him rack up a statewide lead of nearly seven percentage points.

Below are the earlier explanations of the 10 swing locations as well as the results, based on unofficial returns as of Tuesday.

ยท LOUDOUN COUNTY: Until early in the decade, Loudoun was solidly Republican because of its mix of conservative, rural residents and people who were fleeing the inner suburbs. But the county's rapid growth -- its population has risen by nearly 50 percent since 2000 -- is changing its politics.

In the 2005 governor's race, Timothy M. Kaine (D) surprised many by convincingly winning the county over Republican Jerry W. Kilgore, a former attorney general. A year later, Sen. James Webb (D) won Loudoun over former GOP senator George Allen (R). Democratic gains in Loudoun were reinforced last year, when Democrats secured a majority on the Board of Supervisors.

Many parts of Loudoun remain relatively conservative, and Democratic presidential candidates have not had much luck there. President Bush won Loudoun with 56 percent of the vote in 2000 and 2004, although the number of people casting ballots in the county increased by more than 25 percent between the elections.

But Loudoun voters are among the wealthiest and most educated in the nation, making them one of Obama's prime targets this fall, because he did well with such groups during the primaries. Minorities who tend to vote Democratic could also give him a boost in Loudoun, where 11 percent of residents are foreign-born.

Result: Obama carried Loudoun County by 11,509 votes. Obama received 54 percent of the vote to McCain's 45 percent.

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