With no gubernatorial or Senate races this year, all eyes are on the Congressional races. Analayzing Virginia is like analyzing two states- the liberal, Democratic portion comprising the environs of Washington, DC and the more conservative, Republican areas in the south and west of the state. Naturally, that would leave the eastern section along the coast the most contested.
Of the 11 Congressional districts, five are held by Democrats. All incumbents from both parties are seeking re-election. All five Republican incumbents are considered safe and average +6.6 Republican on the Cook PVI. Even so, some of the races are interesting. In the Fourth, represented by Randy Forbes, the district barely went for Obama in 2008 despite having a 33% black population. This is a fairly conservative district despite its ethnic make up.
In the conservative and western 6th District, Robert Goodlatte is running unopposed while Cantor in the 7th, given his position in the leadership in the House and his party, is also safe. Perhaps only in the 10th may Frank Wolfe face anything approaching a close race against Jeff Barnett. However, Wolfe received 60% of the vote in 2008 while Obama won the district with 53% of the vote- a rather respectable showing for a liberal in a conservative district with a low minority population.
Meanwhile, in the First District, incumbent Rob Wittman had to fight off a TEA Party-backed challenger for the Republican nod. And although the district barely supported McCain in 2008, a Republican has represented this district since 1977. However, on a whole other level, maybe his opponent would be an uplifting experience in Washington. Start with her name- Krystal Ball. These are parents with a sense of humor. The recently surfaced pictures of her have the potential to spice things up even further. Imagine the new C-Span video: "Girls of the House Gone Wild." Or Playboy could do a pictorial titled "Women of the House of Representatives." Not to mention the possible advertising endorsements for sex toy manufacturers. I guess Krystal Ball is the anti-O'Donnell.
Of the six Democratic held districts, only two could be considered safe. They are Jim Moran in the 8th and Robert Scott in the 3rd, a black majority district. In the 2nd, incumbent Democrat Glenn Nye currently trails his Republican challnger Scott Rigell in the polls. Nye represents Virginia's eastern shore region and despite the 22% black population, this district just barely supported Obama in 2008. Additionally, Nye won with only 52% of the vote. Obviously, he won on Obama's coat tails, thus making him a prime target in 2010. Nye is a Blue Dog Democrat and although he supported the stimulus, he voted against Obamacare and cap-and-trade. He has the support of the Chamber of Commerce. And he has adopted an interesting campaign strategy when at home where he rarely, if ever, identifies himself as a Democrat. Given the fact he barely won in 2008, Obama/Democratic support was not strong to begin with, and an expected downturn in minority turnout this year, all signs point to a Rigell victory.
Down in Fifth District, comprising the southern central part of the state, Tom Perreillo barely beat Republican incumbent Virgil Goode in 2008. Perreillo's problems are many. First, this was a strong McCain supported district in 2008. Second, his bare-boned victory margin over Goode made him an early and consistent target of the Republican Party in 2010. Obama not being very popular within the district to start with, Perreillo rubbed salt in the wounds by voting for all three major Obama liberal agenda items. Third, Perreillo won by carrying the urban areas in 2008, but there areas are suffering high unemployment in 2010. So, voter turnout will be lower this time around and those that do show up to vote will less inclined to vote for Perreillo. It would appear that Robert Hurt, who currently leads in the polls by 16 points, is destined to victory.
In the 9th Congressional District, located in Virginia's very conservative southwestern corner, incumbent Rick Boucher leads Morgan Griffin by ten points in the polls. This defies logical explanation and one instance where I believe the accuracy of polls can be questioned. After the 6th District, this is the most highly rated Republican district in Virginia and the one that gave McCain his largest margin of victory in the state. Boucher has proven himself a liberal representing a conservative district by voting for the stimulus and cap-and-trade (although ot for Obamacare). This district is far removed from the DC suburbs and anti-incumbent sentiment runs higher here than in the northern stretches of the state. Boucher epitomizes incumbency having been in Washington since 1982. Finally, Republican challenger Morgan Griffin remains within 10 points despite a serious 10-1 money disadvantage. And this is one of few Virginia districts with a black population under 10%. I honestly believe that Griffin will "upset" Boucher in November.
Finally, Gerald Connolly represents the 11th District- the wealthiest in the nation. This is one of those northern Virginia districts that has been staunchly Democratic of late. Connolly was swept into office on Obama's coat tails as Obama took 57% of the vote. Again, Connolly has outraised his Republican opponent, Keith Fimian, my a 6-1 margin, yet only leads by 6 points in the polls. Perhaps, this is a sign of weakness for Democratic incumbents in Virginia, or residual conservatism in this district in which Connolly won a close race in 2008. Additionally, Connolly is an uber-liberal. Besides voting for cap-and-trade and the stimulus, he was an early and passionate advocate of the public option in health care reform. This passion may have endeared him to the liberal base, but not necessarily the hearts of his constituents.
The general consensus among the political experts is that Republicans will pick up two seats in Virginia- the 2nd and the 5th. I agree with the consensus in the 5th, but I believe Nye will barely survive in the 2nd. However, I believe that demographics will prevail in the Ninth District and that Boucher will lose. And perhaps Connolly will hang on and prevail in the Eleventh District. So although I agree with the number of seats to be picked up in Virginia, I disagree with the faces. Of course, I would like to be sort of wrong and see Republicans pick up three or even four seats. What would be a stronger message to Obama and his liberal agenda than that ideal outcome? And to think that Democrats considered Virginia in their column. If it was, in fact, in their column, then Obama and Pelosi screwed that up in two short years.