Home 2014 Races Graph: Mark Warner’s 2014 Vote Total in Historical Perspective

Graph: Mark Warner’s 2014 Vote Total in Historical Perspective


The following are selected vote totals from non-presidential-election-year, statewide races in Virginia since 2001. Obviously, the state’s population has grown a great deal since 2001 (e.g., 4.1 million registered voters in 2001, 5.4 million registered voters in 2012), so all else being equal, one would assume that the winning candidate would get more votes than they would have 13 years ago. Which makes it all the more striking that Mark Warner’s campaign in 2014 managed to get just 1,069,451 votes in, essentially, a two-way race (Robert Sarvis got just 53,201 votes). That’s lower than Terry McAuliffe got last year in a three-way race (in which Roberts Sarvis got 6.5% of the vote), lower than Jim Webb in the mid-term election of 2006 (Webb got 1,175,606 votes that year), also lower than George Allen in 2006 (he got 1,166,277), lower than Mark Herring in 2013 (Herring got 1,103,777, edging Mark Obenshain by just 165 votes), etc. What do I make of this? In short, it appears that Democratic voters were less motivated to turn out this Tuesday for Mark Warner than they were for McAuliffe/Northam/Herring last year and for Jim Webb in 2006. Why? That’s a question I’m throwing out there, but it’s hard for me to see how Warner worked to motivate the “base” (and remember, these mid-terms are “base elections”) to turn out. Your thoughts?

  • LiberalVA

    No one wants to vote for a “radical centrist”…. He doesn’t make Democratic voters excited at all. What we need is more Elizabeth Warren types. Sadly I think people are feeling “what’s the point?” If you put McAuliffe, Northam, Herring, Webb, and Warners’ pictures on a board and made people name who’s who… It would be very sad. Next time we should put up a smart woman vs. “White boring Republican”. Change it up a little. A change of scenery to get people a little more excited.  

  • scott_r

    Jeez.  That’s ugly.  

    Here’s my question: Northam clearly got out a large vote…how much of that was because people knew who he is/was and were so excited by him, or how notoriously bad EW Jackson was…Jackson was known and as the campaign pros all say: negative drives more votes than positive.  

    In this case, Ed Gillespie was very largely a Tabula Rasa for the general electorate.  Sure, inside poker folks on the left and right knew all about him, but most people had no idea who he was…no ugly negatives.

    While I sympathize that the Dem. base would love an Elizabeth Warren and get excited to vote for her, we don’t have one here.  Moreover, it’s not clear she’d be a better broad-based candidate than EW Jackson – highly appealing to a vocal minority (in VA anyway), but likely has high negatives in VA too.

    To me the infuriating thing is that Dems complain that Obama is just “more of the same” or “not effective enough” without recognizing that an empowered GOP – in the House and the Senate – completely undermine him, and that by sitting on their hands and blaming Obama, they actually empower the GOP further.  

  • FreeDem

    Was talking to a friend last night who was pointing out a lot of coverage of Warner’s total disinterest (or even anger) at how the Senate works and the partisanship. After last night, there’s no way that Virginia Democrats will let Warner come back to the Governorship unchallenged. He’s too big of a risk dragging the ticket down with lazy campaigning.  

  • pontoon

    Plan for the future.  He dissed his base repeatedly. He’s for the keystone pipeline and for exporting natural gas. He’s for business in general before his constituents.He thought he could be that radical centrist and get Republican votes and he may have gotten a few, but  they left him in droves this time and so did his Democratic base because of his arrogance towards us.

    He has not been responsive to his constituents about issues important to them….at least not regarding pipelines.  We’re really sick of form letters.  This has been going on for months (first letters were received in May from Dominion) and his staff met with a community group for the first time today!  

  • EstherF

    I feel exactly the same this week as after I volunteered for Gerry Connolly in 2010, which I did again this year for Senator Warner. In each case, it seemed sort of unnecessary and self-indulgent to volunteer for them, like an excuse for a nice walk once a week. They were each going to do really well.

    This year, in fact, I often told people that I was only doing the volunteering (because people kept asking me why in the world I was doing it, which gives you a feel for the complacency we all shared) to keep the party in touch with the voters for a tougher year in the future, and to begin letting people know about the photo id requirements. And, after all, we WERE right to expect Don Beyer to walk right into Congressional office (though he worked hard in the campaign anyway); that’s exactly what happened. Everything we heard in the media was that the same would happen with Mark Warner.

    As best I can tell, the reason we didn’t know any better was that the polls were hugely, systemically off, skewing strongly pro-Dem, as Nate Silver has noted, across the country, and perhaps especially so in Virginia. The reason for that seems more like a technical question than a political one.

    Going back to the 2010 parallel, Congressman Connolly is a bright guy, a lively campaigner, a clear, disciplined messenger, etc., and a frequent presence on air and on TV. But he had replaced a GOPer (Tom Davis), was still just in his first term, and faced a self-funded Tea Party favorite. Not a good formula in 2010. On Election Day, he was ahead by, as I recall, about 500 votes. The margin increased a bit in the canvass.

    Thus the sense of deja vu for me today with the Warner outcome. Each guy was a first-timer in his current office, was expected to sail through the election to his second term, instead hit a huge, devastating wave election, and barely survived it, while many others across the country did not. All I can say is, thank God they both made it through.

  • hrprogressive

    Mark Warner cares about Mark Warner, and I think a lot of voters may have seen through that.

    I think even low info voters knew that E.W. Jackson and Ken Cuccinelli were kind of insane, and thus didn’t deserve their votes. Ralph Northam was as white-bread and boring as they came, but he was amenable, and warm, and I think people liked that. It literally would not have surprised me to have seen plenty of ticket splitters in 2013, voting Cuccinelli-Northam-Obenshain, or bizarrely, some other combination thereof.


    Warner failed to inspire voters, failed to account for the attacks on his own record, and Gillespie didn’t commit any major gaffes on his part.

    If Warner serves a full term and comes back around in 2020 for another term, and hasn’t changed…he needs a primary challenge. He’s not untouchable, and he’s not inspiring the base.

  • pvogel

    did not inspire much,  much like romney did not  inspire  much in 2012.     You have to stand  for something,  be yje  flagpole that people  want to dance around

  • pattioric

    I found it hard to volunteer. I sent e-mails with my willingness to help out the Trammell and Warner campaigns, no responses. I even drove down Warner’s Hamilton Street office on a nice Sunday afternoon in October, and NO ONE was there! I saw one Warner sign outside the office. I wasn’t even sure I had come to the right place.Maybe they were out knocking on doors, but really- no one manning the station? I finally stopped by again a week before election, and people were there. I signed up for one canvassing, mainly to educate voters about id requirements and the double voting for our congressional house district (Brat/Trammell). When I knocked on Democrat doors, a lot of them weren’t even aware of who Trammell was. These campaigns need to get the ground game going much earlier, not wait until a month before the election.

  • Quizzical

    I’m very skeptical about interpreting data just after elections, because it always seems like people see what they want to see in the data. I don’t have very strong feelings about Warner one way or the other, so maybe for that reason I can see this election differently.

    Take this data for instance. Some say that it shows that the Democratic base is disenchanted with Mark Warner, but there are some other obvious factors that could have come into play.

    For one thing, it may be that the turnout of the Democratic base is heavily influenced by the degree of antipathy the base has to the Republican candidate.  The high turnout for the 2006 election might have been partly due to the strong dislike Democrats had for George Allen — a dislike which was only increased by Allen’s gaffes during that campaign. Similarly, the turnout in 2013 could have been driven in part by a dislike of Cuchinelli.  In contrast, Gillespie wasn’t a controversial figure.  I myself did have a hazy memory that he was involved in the George H. W. Bush campaign and had something to do with the Willie Horton ads, but for practical purposes he has little negative baggage.

    The lack of negatives on Gillespie probably enabled him to attract independent voters.  Looking at the bar graph, the two highest vote getters were Northram and Webb, both of whom were attractive to independents and even to Republicans.

    Also, speaking of whether the Democratic base was motivated or not, the Democratic turnout may have been depressed by the relentless attacks on Obama, combined with the series of news stories that placed the Obama administrations in a bad light –  children being bussed across the Mexican border to be essentially wards of the United States; ISIL’s easy invasion of Iraq; the Ebola epidemic; Russia throwing its weight around with regard to Crimea and Ukraine; the volatility of the stock market; the air war against ISIL;  and so on.  All of that depressing firehose of negative news had little to do with Mark Warner.

    The other thing is that before the election, it was widely thought that Gillespie had no chance against Warner.  The expectation that Gillespie would lose was shared by the Republicans and Gillespie, based on the reports that they decided to stop running TV ads in Virginia.  So if the media is telling the Democratic base that Warner is a sure thing, those Democrats who live in gerrymandered Republican districts could easily conclude that their votes didn’t matter and weren’t needed in this election. Is Democratic complacency about Warner’s Senate seat the fault of Mark Warner?  

    My final thought is that maybe Mark Warner’s performance in the Senate has been disappointing, but then again, is there anyone in the House or Senate about whom the same could not be said?  The last two Congresses as a whole have been incredibly disappointing, to the point of being digusting.  They haven’t done anything.  So Mark Warner’s voting record over the last four years is irrelevant in my view, because for the most part the votes were meaningless.  And that is not really Mark Warner’s fault either.

    This post probably sounds like I am a big Mark Warner fan, but really I’m not.  I don’t have strong feelings about him one way or the other.  In the end though, to be fair to him, and to us, let it be noted that he won his election.  He won.  He won ugly, but he won.  That sounds like he did his job.  

  • leprechaun

    I gotta agree with Quizzical in this instance. A more progressive message may have helped Warner, but it’s not really clear that most voters are aware of his stance on any particular image. And while he’s a centrist he hasn’t so far sided with Republicans to block any progressive legislation. I think to some extent he didn’t take this election as seriously. One thing that helped McAuliffe was he had his ground game going in May. And despite his progressive platform he didn’t get a huge voter turnout. Part of this was progressives didn’t like or trust him, but also it was just off year election apathy. The good thing that may come out of the ugly Warner win is that maybe now he will realize he doesn’t have to try to appeal to conservatives since they aren’t going to vote for him anyway.

  • sonofkenny

    I think this is a systemic issue. The fact that 2/3 of voters nationwide didn’t feel compelled to vote is more than about laziness or apathy on their part, and its not something political messaging can overcome. It’s about a frustration  that no matter what happens in terms of election outcome, nothing will come of any promises made by politicians advocating change.

    Look at poll after poll on issues that favor Democrats, yet we continually elect representatives that oppose those very things. It’s a feeling that the system is rigged to keep the status quo where it is…and unfortunately the status quo is a system that favors the wealthy and corporations…

    Who can blame them…when we see one party gerrymandered into power, large corporations and individuals being given a greater voice in election outcomes and policy decisions, and those very politicians working to restrict the voting power of those that might oppose them. Frankly I’m surprised participation isn’t even lower than it is…folks are only willing to bang their head on a brick wall so often before they realize they won’t get anywhere!