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Trump Referendum Or Just Another Dem Disappointment: All Eyes Turn To Virginia's Governor Race

After a hard-fought campaign, one which turned downright vicious in recent weeks, Virginia's race for governor is now just hours away from being decided with polls set to close at 7pm EST.  The race pits Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam (D) against former Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie (R) and will undoubtedly be spun as a referendum on the Trump administration no matter which side emerges victorious later this evening. 

According to The Hill, given that this is an off-year race, strategists in both camps expect a low-turnout affair in which only about 41% of the state’s electorate is expected to cast a ballot.  And while small variations in voter turnout assumptions can have monumental impacts on polls (in addition to the already built-in liberal bias), the Real Clear Politics average shows a slight advantage for Northam headed into tonight.

Of course, polls showed a similar advantage for Jon Ossoff heading into Georgia's special election earlier this year and we all know how that turned out (see:  The Russians Do It Again: Democrats Get Crushed In Georgia Election Despite 7x Spending Advantage).

Not surprisingly, at least not in today's political climate, Virginia's governor race started off as a contest between two fairly moderate candidates but has quickly morphed into what a former Republican congressman described as a choice between "an MS-13 member and a Nazi."

Northam’s campaign has spent the final weeks before Election Day tying Gillespie to President Trump, and Democratic outside groups have portrayed Gillespie supporters as white supremacists sympathetic to the white nationalists who rallied in Charlottesville.

 

Gillespie has accused Northam of voting to allow sanctuary cities — though no Virginia jurisdiction counts itself as a sanctuary for undocumented immigrants — and therefore exacerbating a rising crime wave fueled by the MS-13 gang.

 

Both pitches are aimed squarely at firing up the two sides’ respective bases.

 

“We’re two one-party states,” said Tom Davis, a former Republican congressman from Northern Virginia. “This comes down to who shows up their base, which is why at the end of the campaign I’m having to choose between an MS-13 member and a Nazi.”

Meanwhile, the need to rally the base sparked the following mini tweet storm from President Trump earlier this morning attacking Ralph Northam as "weak on crime, weak on our GREAT VETS, Anti-Second Amendment...and has been horrible on Virginia economy."

....and has been horrible on Virginia economy. Vote

today!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump)

.

will totally turn around the high crime and poor economic performance of VA. MS-13 and crime will be gone. Vote today, ASAP!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump)

As the Washington Post points out, the key to a Northam victory will be high voter turnout in deep-blue, urban Northern Virginia cities while Gillespie will be relying on the more rural towns in the Southwest.

Northam and the Democrats are concentrating on a deep-blue urban crescent that runs from Northern Virginia to Richmond and Hampton Roads and has been key to Democratic wins for statewide offices since 2009.

 

Gillespie has been courting Republicans in white rural Southwest and Southside Virginia but also needs to peel away moderates and independents. He particularly needs votes in Northern Virginia, where he lives, to overcome Northam’s built-in advantage with Democrats in the most populous part of the state.

 

African American voters are an important bloc for Democrats and have been pivotal in their ability to win statewide elections. Northam comes from Hampton Roads, home to a large African American population, and is backed by scores of black elected officials statewide, relationships that he cultivated over 10 years as a state lawmaker and lieutenant governor.

Meanwhile, The Hill notes that just one Virginia county, Prince William County in North Virginia, has managed to pick the winning candidate in every race since 2004.

Observers in both parties are zeroing in on a handful of key precincts in bellwether counties and cities, crafting base appeals aimed only at turning out their core voters.

 

In the last nine closely-fought statewide elections — the presidential contests in 2004, 2008, 2012 and 2016; Senate contests in 2006 and 2014; and gubernatorial races in 2005, 2009 and 2013 — only two jurisdictions have picked the winning candidate every time: Prince William County, just south and west of the Washington Beltway, and tiny Radford City, on the I-81 corridor west of Roanoke.

 

Six other jurisdictions have picked the winner in eight of those nine close elections: Albemarle County and Harrisonburg City, both near Charlottesville; Henrico County, in the Richmond suburbs; Northern Virginia’s Loudoun County; Northampton County, on the eastern shore; and Sussex County, south of Richmond.

As a reminder, here is how Virginia's results turned out in the 2016 Presidential race.  Hillary won the state by nearly 5.5 points with large victories in Richmond, Alexandria, Norfolk and Virginia Beach.

Of course, in the end, tonight's race will all come down to just how effective the Russians have been at manipulating the ignorant masses across Virginia who couldn't possibly form their own opinion without some nefarious Facebook advertisements to tell them how to vote.