See below for an interesting analysis of VA-05 by Charlottesville-based attorney and Democratic activist Lloyd Snook. Bolding added by me for emphasis.
After spending some quality time with election numbers, here’s the basic story in the 5th District. In 2010, in a midterm election, Robert Hurt beat Tom Perriello with 119,560 votes to Tom’s 110,562 votes. Turnout was about 230,000 voters.
In 2014 — our most recent midterm election — Hurt (now an incumbent) beat Lawrence Gaughan with 124,000 votes. Only 204,000 people voted — a real low point.
There are a few lessons we might derive from this meager data:
1. In an off year, the Republican comfort zone probably tops out at around 120,000 votes.
2. The turnout for Governor last year was 243,140, so we know that we can get that many people to the polls even when the Presidency is not on the ballot.
3. Denver Riggleman is not an incumbent, and he has not run a very good campaign. Enthusiasm for Riggleman doesn’t seem to be high. He may have a hard time getting to 120,000 votes.
4. Democrats need three things to happen for Leslie to win:
a. Overall, turnout needs to be up around 240,000 — as for the gubernatorial election last year.
b. Leslie doesn’t need to win in Republican strongholds like Bedford and Campbell Counties, but she can’t get crushed. If she can get 35% of the vote in places like Pittsylvania and Franklin Counties, she has a chance. In 2008, when he won, Tom Perriello got 35% down there; in 2010, when he lost, he got 30% or less.
c. Ralph Northam carried Charlottesville in 2017 by about 11,600 votes. Terry McAuliffe carried Charlottesville for Governor in 2013 by 7,500 votes. Albemarle’s margin for Northam was 12,000 votes; the margin for McAuliffe was 6,500 votes. The turnout in Albemarle and Charlottesville jumped by 20.6% and 31.5%, respectively — the highest in the district. She needs Northam-like numbers in Charlottesville and Albemarle.
This is a plausible scenario. Does Leslie have a chance? Yes. Does she have a chance without a lot of last-minute, continuing work by her friends? No.