Still waiting for the final numbers, but this has the makings of a blowout. And the exit polling doesn’t bode well for Democrats.
Independents — the crown jewel of elections because they often determine outcomes — were a critical part of the diverse coalition that carried the president to victory in Virginia and across the country. But, in the midst of a recession, still early in Obama’s term, they fled from Democrats in a state where the economy trumped all.
Early returns showed that by a 2-1 margin McDonnell was winning rapidly growing, far-flung Washington, D.C., suburbs — places like Loudoun and Prince William counties — that Republicans historically have won but that Obama prevailed in last fall by winning over swing voters.
Interviews with voters leaving polling stations in Virginia were filled with reasons for Democrats to be concerned and for Republicans to be optimistic.
The exit polls showed that nearly a third of voters described themselves as independents and they preferred the Republican by almost a 2-1 margin over the Democrat one year after breaking heavily toward Obama. The surveys also indicated that the Democrats may have had difficulty turning out their base, including the swarms of first-time minority and youth voters whom Obama attracted as part of his coalition.
One down, two to go.