Leading up to Election Day/Election Week, we’re going to take a closer look at a few key races in Virginia, and what to look out for as election results start coming in. This article looks at VA07 in Central Virginia, which is made up of all or parts of Chesterfield County (31.5% of the district), Henrico County (29.9%), Spotsylvania County (12.6%), Culpeper County (6.0%), Louisa County (4.7%), Orange County (4.6%), Powhatan County (4.0%), Goochland County (3.4%), Amelia County (1.7%), and Nottoway County (1.7%). This is a district that went by eight points (51%-43%) for Trump in 2016, then went by 3-6 points for Republicans in the 2017 Virginia statewide races, then went by six points (52%-46%) for Tim Kaine over Corey Stewart in 2018. In 2018, Democrat Abigail Spanberger defeated then-Rep. Dave Brat (R) in VA07 by a narrow, 1.9-point (50.3%-48.4%) margin, with a total of 349,831 votes cast.
So what should we be looking for in VA07? Here are a few things:
- There’s have been no public polls on VA07 this cycle. Despite this, the FiveThirtyEight.com Deluxe model gives Spanberger an 81% chance of winning this race, while The Economist model gives Spanberger an 84% chance, with a predicted outcome of Spanberger 53%-Nick Freitas 47%. We’ll see how close the models come.
- Will Sen. Mark Warner carry this district by a similar margin to Sen. Tim Kaine (52%-46%) in 2018? Or will it be significantly larger/smaller than that? How about Joe Biden? Can he carry this district that Trump won by eight points in 2018, or at least come close? If so, that certainly should help “down-ballot” Democrats like Abigail Spanberger.
- Turnout in 2018 was 350k, with Spanberger getting 176k and Brat 169k. And in 2016, turnout in VA07 was 379k. So…what will overall VA07 turnout look like this time around? Also, where will that turnout come from?
- In 2018, 113k of the 350k (32%) of the VA07 vote came from Chesterfield County, and another 109k (31%) from Henrico County…for a combined 63% from those two counties. Spanberger won Chesterfield County by >10k votes, and Spanberger also won Henrico County by >20k votes…for a combined >30k margin in those two counties. That’s huge, obviously, especially given that Spanberger only won VA07 by 13k votes, losing every other jurisdiction (e.g., Spanberger only got 29% in Powhatan County, only 33% in Amelia County, only 40% each in Goochland County and Orange County, only 41% each in Culpeper County and Louisa County). The question this time is how big Spanberger will win Chesterfield County and Henrico County, and whether those margins can offset all the “red” parts of the district? And if so, by how much? Also, perhaps Spanberger can reduce the margins by which she lost those “red” counties, at least by a bit? Finally, how will Sen. Mark Warner do in VA07? Will his presence on the ballot help Spanberger as much as Sen. Kaine in 2018 – or more or less? Definitely something to keep an eye on…
- It will be interesting to see what turnout in the “red” parts of VA07 looks like, perhaps as an indication of whether Trump supporters are turning out in droves, staying home, or what. Also, we’ll see if there’s any ticket splitting…perhaps some Trump/Spanberger voters or Biden/Freitas voters? It’s hard for me to imagine many of either, but in a close race, even a bit of ticket splitting could make a difference.
- Finally, note that we’ll first be getting results from election day voting, then after 11 pm, “that’s when you start to see the localities reporting results for all the early voting, absentee voting.” So if early voting skews Democratic, it wouldn’t be at all surprising to see Freitas with an early-evening “lead” that disappears once the early/absentee votes are tabulated. Keep that in mind not just in VA07, but throughout Virginia on Tuesday night!