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. We started yesterday with VA02 and VA07, and now move to the huge/sprawling VA05 in Central and Southside Virginia, which is made up of all or parts of Albemarle County (15.3% of the district), Pittsylvania County (8.5%), Spotsylvania County (12.6%), Fauquier County (8.0%), Campbell County (7.4%), Franklin County (7.2%), Charlottesville (6.4%), Bedford County (6.3%), Danville (5.4%), Halifax County (4.7%), Mecklenburg County (4.2%), Fluvanna County (3.7%), Greene County (2.6%), Prince Edward County (2.6%), Nelson County (2.2%), Appomattox County (2.2%), Brunswick County (2.1%), Buckingham County (2.0%), Henry County (1.9%), Madison County (1.9%), Charlotte County (1.6%), Lunenberg County (1.5%), Cumberland County (1.4%) and Rappahannock County (1.1%). This is a district that went by 14 points (55%-41%) for Trump in 2016, then went by 9-14 points for Republicans in the 2017 Virginia statewide races, then went by two points (50%-48%) for Republican Corey Stewart over Tim Kaine in 2018. So yes, it’s quite red! Also in 2018, Republican Denver Riggleman defeated Democrat Leslie Cockburn in VA07 by a 6.5-point (53.2%-46.7%) margin, with a total of 310,919 votes cast (165,339 for Riggleman and 145,040 for Cockburn).
What should we be looking for in VA05 in this election? Here are a few things:
- There’s have been several public polls of VA05 this cycle, the most recent of which have had Webb up narrowly (+3, +2, +3 points) The FiveThirtyEight.com Deluxe model gives Webb a 56% chance of winning this race, while The Economist model gives Good a 65% chance, with a predicted outcome of Good 51%-Webb 49%. Bottom line: this election is probably going to be super close, quite possibly into recount territory, but certainly possible we won’t know the result on election night.
- Will Sen. Mark Warner perform similarly to Tim Kaine (48%-50%) in 2018 or a bit better? If better, how much better? And how much might that help Webb? Also, how about Joe Biden? Can he come (much) closer in this district that Trump won by a whopping 14 points in 2018, maybe get down into low single digits? If so, that certainly should help “down-ballot” Democrats like Cameron Webb.
- VA05 turnout in 2018 was 311k, and in 2016, turnout was 357k. So…what will overall VA05 turnout look like this time around? Also, where will that turnout come from?
- In 2018, Democrat Leslie Cockburn racked up large margins in Albemarle County (nearly 16k votes) and Charlottesville (over 14k votes), plus another 3.4k in Danville, 1.2k in Brunswick County and almost 600 votes in Prince Edward County. Riggleman romped in Pittsylvania County (almost 10k votes), Campbell County (almost 10k votes), Franklin County (almost 10k votes), Bedford County (about 9k votes); plus smaller margins in Fauquier County (about 4k votes), Appomattox County (>3k votes), Halifax County (about 2k votes), Mecklenburg County (about 1.5k votes), Charlotte County (about 1k votes), etc. So basically, Webb has to rack up greater than the 30k Cockburn margin in Albemarle/Cville, also do well in Danville and Brunswick County, and hold down Bob Good’s margins in some of those red counties, like Pittsylvania, Campbell, Franklin and Bedford. The question will be whether Webb’s margins in Albemarle/Cville/Danville can offset all the “red” parts of the district? And if so, by how much? Finally, will Warner’s presence on the ballot help Webb as much as Sen. Kaine in 2018 – or hopefully more?
- It will be interesting to see what turnout in the “red” parts of VA05 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/Webb voters or Biden/Good voters? It’s hard for me to imagine many of either, particularly the latter, but in a close race, even a bit of ticket splitting could make a difference. Also note that Webb has really worked to exploit Republican divisions in VA05, following the viciously nasty VA05 GOP nomination process, which ended up with far-right Bob Good ousting the incumbent, Rep. Denver Riggleman, who has openly flirted with voting for Biden and maybe even Webb. We’ll see if any of that has an impact on the results.
- 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 VA05, but throughout Virginia on Tuesday night!