In the wake of Tuesday’s Republican primary in Virginia, a few things were immediately clear: former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney was the winner, Texas Rep. Ron Paul did better than expected, and turnout was historically low.
Yet even though voters stayed home in droves because of the lack of competition — only Romney and Paul qualified for the ballot — the results still offer some hints about where Romney looks strong in Virginia and where his weaknesses are apparent.
That margin of victory was smaller than some observers predicted, particularly since multiple recent polls had put Romney’s lead at more than 30 points, leading to the suggestion that Virginia was yet another sign of Romney’s weakness as a frontrunner. But if Romney’s victory wasn’t especially deep, it was broad — he won 118 of the state’s 134 counties
Romney did particularly well in parts of Northern Virginia, taking 65 percent of the vote in both Arlington and Fairfax counties and 68 percent in Alexandria City. He won 62 percent in Loudoun, 61 percent in Prince William and 60 percent in Fairfax City.
Paul’s victories were confined to a handful of counties in the Tidewater region, a stack of counties near Roanoke and a smattering of towns like Charlottesville and Portsmouth.
As for turnout, just 5.1 percent of all voters in the state cast ballots Tuesday (turnout among just Republicans is not available because Virginia does not register by party). In the closely contested 2008 Virginia GOP primary, by contrast, 10.6 percent of voters turned out. And that year’s marquee Democratic primary matchup drew 21.3 percent.
This map from the Virginia Public Access Project shows which parts of the state turned out at the highest and lowest rates,
The highest turnout came in a band of counties in the middle of the state, stretching from Powhatan and Goochland, just west of Richmond, over to the counties that comprise the Tidewater region along the Chesapeake Bay — including a few that went for Paul. Nearly all of the counties with the lowest turnout fall in the southwestern corner of the state.
Most of Northern Virginia clocked in with average turnout, with Fauquier the closest county to Washington that voted above the norm.
So is it possible to extrapolate many lessons for November from last night’s results? Probably not, given that turnout for the general election will be many times larger than it was last night — 74 percent of total Virginia voters cast ballots in 2008, compared to 5 percent Tuesday.