The rundown on the vulnerable Virginia House seats looks like this:
The conservative southwestern 9th District long held by Rep. Rick Boucher; the massive, mostly rural south central 5th District won in 2008 by Tom Perriello on the strength of turnout of college voters in Charlottesville and African Americans there and in other areas; the military-heavy coastal 2nd District held by freshman Rep. Glenn Nye; and the moderate, high-brow suburban Washington 11th District represented by freshman Rep. Gerry Connolly.
In the 9th, Republicans hope to snare Terry Kilgore, who was re-elected without opposition to the House of Delegates. Perriello in the 5th is vulnerable in part because of his vote on cap-and-trade, which instantly put him on the Republican target list. If 2009 is any indication, the African-American and youth turnout (which lifted him to victory over a popular incumbent in 2008) may have been an Obama-centric phenomenon that won’t be repeated until he is on the ballot again in 2012. In discussing the returns with me yesterday, Larry J. Sabato put it this way: “All Obama proved yesterday was that the new people who showed up to vote for him in ’08 were Obamacrats, not Democrats.” Or put differently, unless the Democrats can figure out how to convert the electorate to a 2008 model, some of them will go down to defeat, and one could well be Perriello.
Gerry Connolly in Fairfax County replaced Tom Davis, the longtime Republican congressman. Davis over the weekend told me that Connolly’s error has been in identifying himself too closely with the ultra-Left Obama agenda. Davis’s former and Connolly’s current constituents aren’t likely to look fondly on a major tax hike, and Connolly has done little to convince them that he understands their suspicion of big government.
Nye benefited from the 2008 Democratic wave as well, beating out Thelma Drake 52 to 47 percent. Without Obama on the ticket, the heavy contingent of military veterans may tip the electorate to a more Republican composition in 2010.
Will all four of these representatives march lock-step with the Obama agenda? It would seem foolhardy. But stay tuned.