That’s no surprise given Virginia’s distinct blue hue in recent elections. Biden’s Virginia advantage remains as solid now as it was before the Democratic primaries got underway. Barring a total collapse of Biden’s campaign or a run on the commonwealth’s unguarded potato crop, the former vice president is highly likely to win Virginia’s 13 electoral votes.
It won’t be a Biden landslide in Virginia. Like Barack Obama in 2012 and Hillary Clinton in 2016, his margin will come out of Fairfax County, which has become the rock upon which Democratic presidential victories are built here.
It will be left to the other Democrat running statewide this November — Sen. Mark R. Warner — to tell us whether the gains the party has made in the Richmond region and Tidewater are durable.
Warner, you may recall, barely escaped his 2014 matchup with Republican nominee Ed Gillespie and Libertarian Robert Sarvis. Warner’s pride took a hit, and his presidential ambitions perished.
Warner has recovered from that nearly disastrous campaign, raising his profile as thoughtful critic of the Trump White House and starring in a viral Public Service Announcement about hand washing. He (and Sen. Tim Kaine) also cast a terrible vote against personal privacy, but most Virginians don’t seem to care.
Warner then, is a shoo-in for reelection, right? Well, demographics, voting trends and powerful Democratic win streaks all say “yes.”
The Roanoke College numbers, though show a bit of indifference to the senior senator: “Mark Warner leads his undetermined Republican opponent (48%-31%).”
Reelection numbers less than 50 are usually taken as red flags. The incumbent can be beaten — in this case, struggling to get close to 50 percent against no one.
Repeat: no one.
That’s not just bad, it’s appalling.
Or it would be if not for a variety of factors, including:
1. Donald Trump is on the ballot. The president is the most effective get-out-the-vote tool Democrats have had since Richard Nixon.
2. Virginia Republicans remain dysfunctional, with the 5th Congressional District convention serving as a the case study in how to alienate voters and destroy public good will.
3. Did I mention Donald Trump? Yeah, he’s the gift that keeps on giving to Virginia Democrats.
4. And let’s not forget Gov. Ralph Northam. Yes, the man whose political career would have ended in disgrace a year ago if not for the scandals and bungling of his understudies, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax and Attorney General Mark R. Herring, is riding high again, with a 59 percent job-approval rating.
That last item matters, even in a presidential election year. Northam is much less of a worry or an embarrassment for Democratic candidates. That could all change if the economy refuses to restart or the novel coronavirus roars back in the fall. But, for now, Virginia Democrats are set up fine to give Biden a baker’s dozen electoral votes, Warner a third term and themselves a leg up on retaining their 2019 electoral gains in the critical 2021 statewide elections.
Speaking of those contests:
My friend and one-time writing partner Paul Goldman has declared he’s running for the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor.
Because he’s the first candidate to declare for the nomination, he gets first-mover advantage and the ability to set the agenda. He’s already laid down some impressive historical markers, linking his campaign to former governor Doug Wilder and Henry Howell — men who held the office Goldman seeks and for whom he served as campaign manager.
Yes, there’s more than a bit of nostalgia to it all. And because Goldman has been around so long, done so much and made his share of enemies along the way, the race is sure to be an education and a slug fest.
The one thing it won’t be is boring.