Republicans Must Determine Whether Democrats Have Hit Their Ceiling in N.Va.

By Tim Craig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 4, 2008


For Republicans still reeling from the drubbing the party took in Northern Virginia on Election Day, there is good and bad news in the outcome.

First the bad news.

President-elect Barack Obama received 60 percent of the vote in Fairfax County and 72 percent in Arlington County and Alexandria, giving him a trove of support that made it nearly impossible for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to carry the state.

Now, the good news.

Obama drew 60 percent of the vote in Fairfax and 72 percent in Arlington and Alexandria, which are about the same percentages that Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) and Sen. James Webb (D) received in their races in 2005 and 2006.

As Virginia Republican leaders gather this week for their annual retreat at the Homestead resort in the Allegheny Mountains, the party will try to determine whether Democrats have peaked in Northern Virginia.

If Democrats have maxed out this year in Northern Virginia, the GOP will have a road map for starting to chip away at Democratic margins, allowing Republicans to once again prevail in major statewide races.

But if this year's results in Northern Virginia are just a harbinger of ever-growing Democratic vote margins out of the area, hopes for a GOP comeback could be crushed for future conservative candidates.

The biggest challenge for the GOP over the next several years will be trying to determine the size of the Democratic base in Fairfax, the state's largest jurisdiction, and whether it will continue to expand.

There does appear to be a point of no return for Republicans. It appears that any time Democrats reach 58 percent of the vote in Fairfax, GOP candidates have little chance to succeed statewide.

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