It is often the case that the most interesting read in the Sunday papers about Virginia politics comes from Jeff Schapiro of the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Today is no exception, with his column, House Republicans’ nightmare scenario. Here are a few key points, with my thoughts, quibbles, etc.
*“Republicans stand a strong chance in November of holding the Virginia Senate, if not expanding their majority.”
Given the makeup of Virginia’s off/odd-year, which strongly favors Republicans, I sadly must agree with this analysis. I believe the analysis I did last August largely still holds: Dems need to hold all their incumbent districts, including some potentially tough ones (John Edwards, who is facing a Republican and a Dem-turned-independent; Chuck Colgan – who is retiring; possibly Lynwood Lewis, who only won by 11 votes in his last election), while picking up at least one seat (the best shots are the seat of retiring Sen. John Watkins in the Richmond area, and also the seat of crazy Sen. Dick Black in Loudoun/Prince William Counties). Democrats will also need to overcome Republicans’ initial money advantage. Again, it’s doable, but it’s not going to be easy.
*Schapiro argues that two issues — a review of parole and the Planned Parenthood “fetal organ-harvesting video – secretly made by abortion foes” — could “energize” the Republican vote this November.
I mostly don’t see that happening. For one thing, the right-wing base is almost always riled up about something or other, and a review of parole doesn’t seem to be of the magnitude to increase that significantly. As for the Planned Parenthood video, it’s hard for me to imagine that will be a big deal come November, especially since it really has nothing to do with Virginia politicians per se, and also because most Virginians presumably support the vast majority of work Planned Parenthood does – pap smears, mammograms, breast scancer screenings, HPV tests, birth control, and even abortion in most cases.
*Schapiro argues that the potential for court-ordered House of Delegates redistricting, combined with elections in November 2016, are “Speaker Bill Howell’s nightmare.”
Agreed. That would be the “perfect storm” against Howell, given that the electorate in a presidential year is almost COMPLETELY different (and far “bluer” than in the usual odd-year elections for House of Delegates) and could really put a dent in his 68-32 majority.
*How much of a dent? Schapiro notes that there “are 27 Republican-held House districts that Obama won in 2012 or lost narrowly” and implies that most or all of these districts could be competitive in the scenario noted above.
I agree to a point. By my count, there are 19 (not 27) Virginia HoD districts that were won by Barack Obama and/or Tim Kaine, yet are currently held by Republicans. I’d say that in the scenario outlined above – redistricting plus a November 2016 election for House of Delegates – Democrats could pick up a “slew” of seats, as Jeff Schapiro argues, just not quite as large a “slew” as 27 seats. A more realistic prediction, IMHO, would be 10-15 (actually, that’s probably too optimistic, although Schapiro also says “ten or a dozen seem possible,” so who knows), assuming great recruiting by Democrats, funding of those candidates, and a strong (3-5 points or more?) Democratic victory for president here in Virginia. That would potentially get Dems from 32 seats to 42-47 seats in the House of Delegates, within striking distance of 50, and definitely a force that the Republicans couldn’t just ignore or roll over at will, as they can now.
*Finally, Schapiro implies that Bill Howell himself could be vulnerable, given that “Obama got 49 percent in his district in 2012.”
Let’s hope that happens, and good riddance to the ALEC tool if it does.