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Within Democrat Hillary Clinton’s

victory in swing-state Virginia last

month lies the opportunity for a possible

Republican renaissance in statewide

elections next November.

Turning first to the bad news for Virginia

Republicans, the party’s deepest troubles lie in

the state’s two biggest electoral jurisdictions,

which are getting more Democratic every

election cycle. More than 550,000 votes

were cast in November in Fairfax County,

the state’s most populous jurisdiction, and

Republican presidential nominee Donald

Trump only received 29 percent of them.

Four years earlier, Mitt Romney received

39.5 percent of the vote in Fairfax.

Clinton also won Loudoun County by a

larger margin than Barack Obama did four

years ago. Loudoun, which ranked second

among Virginia jurisdictions this year

with more than 182,000 votes cast, went

for Clinton by a 55 percent to 38 percent

margin. Four years ago, Democrats won the

county by a 52-47 margin.

The relatively bad news continued for Republicans in

Chesterfield, long the state’s largest reliably Republican county.

Trump won Chesterfield, which ranked third in the total number of

votes casts, but only by two percentage points, compared to an eight

percentage point margin for Romney four years ago.

Virginia Beach, which ranked fourth in number of votes cast,

offered a bit better news for the GOP. Trump secured a four point

advantage in the city, a notably stronger performance than that of

his Republican predecessor, who ran two points behind Obama in

Virginia Beach in 2012.

The greatest declines for the Democrats, though, were found in

Southside and Southwest Virginia. The attached cartogram, which

adjusts the sizes of Virginia counties and cities to match the number

of votes cast, marks the greatest declines in Democratic vote share

with deep red, and the greatest increases in the percentage support

for Clinton with dark blue. Most of the counties along Interstate 81

and along the North Carolina border are marked dark red, signifying

the greatest declines for Clinton when compared to the percentage

Obama received four years ago.

These rural counties do not have a lot of voters, so appear much

smaller on this map when their size is adjusted to account for the

number of votes cast. (People vote, acres don’t.)

Given their small electorates, there is limited upside opportunity

for the GOP in these areas. Further, these dark red counties already

offer strong support for the party, even for Trump, who paid little

attention to the socially conservative Republicanism that dominates

these counties. If Trump’s twice-divorced, bawdy, glitzy billionaire

Fifth Avenue Manhattan lifestyle didn’t drive away Christian

conservatives, then nothing will.

Looking ahead, the Republican Party would likely maximize

its chances of success by nominating a less divisive candidate

than Trump who nevertheless follows his lead in one crucial area:

de-emphasizing a conservative social policy agenda. That way,

Source: Electoral data are from the Virginia State Board of Elections website


Map by Stephen P. Hanna, UMW Geography Department.

Change in Support for Democratic

Presidential Candidates, 2012-2016

5 or less

6 to 10 10 or more

5 or less

6 to 10





Counties and independent cities are scaled by the

number of votes cast. For example, Fairfax County

(550,000 votes) is three times the size of Loudoun

County(182,000 votes).

Possible Republican Renaissance?

By Stephen J. Farnsworth and Stephen Hanna



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