For some number crunching on the 2021 Virginia governor’s election, see FiveThirtyEight.com, which finds:
- “In precincts where Biden won over 70 percent of the two-party vote, McAuliffe lost 592,000 votes relative to Biden, while Youngkin was just 124,000 votes off of Trump’s total. That means Youngkin netted a whopping 468,000 votes in these precincts.“
- Note that Terry McAuliffe lost to Glenn Youngkin by just 63,480 votes, which is FAR less than the 468,000 votes that Youngkin netted in the 70%+ Biden precincts. As FiveThirtyEight.com puts it, “the losing party [in this case the McAuliffe campaign] faltered most on its own home field.”
- “…if we look at heavily Republican Virginia precincts — those that gave Trump at least 70 percent of their two-party votes, which are on the chart’s right side — Youngkin saw a net gain of nearly 3,000 votes. That’s striking: For all the coverage of Trump’s strength in certain communities, Youngkin actually outperformed Trump in Virginia’s most pro-Trump precincts in an off-year election.”
Now, it’s important to point out that Terry McAuliffe received 1.6 million votes in 2021 – about 200,000 more votes than the 1.4 million Ralph Northam got in his 2017 landslide, 8.9-point victory over Republican Ed Gillespie. The problem for McAuliffe is that Youngkin received 1.66 million votes, up nearly 500,000 from the 1.18 million votes won by Gillespie in 2017. Which was enough for Youngkin to eke out a narrow, 63k-vote win over McAuliffe.
Getting back to FiveThirtyEight’s analysis, let’s look at some precinct turnout numbers, which I wrote about back on November 11.
- In Richmond City, many heavily Democratic precincts’ turnout percentages were only in the 30%’s or 40%’s; in deep-“blue” “Laburnum” precinct in Henrico County, turnout was only 40.7%; etc. In contrast, in the Richmond area, turnout was VERY high (in the 70%’s – presidential level!) in deep-“red” areas.
- For comparison purposes, in 2017, Northam got 58,047 votes in Richmond City; in 2021, McAuliffe got 61,929 votes in Richmond City (about 6.7% more than Northam). In 2017, Northam got 69,969 in Henrico County; in 2021, McAuliffe got 81,409 votes in Henrico County (about 16% more than Northam). As for Youngkin, he got 15,713 votes in Richmond City, up 28% from Gillespie’s 12,262 Richmond City votes in 2017; and Youngkin got 55,796 votes in Henrico County, up 28% from Gillespie’s 43,747 Henrico County votes in 2017. Note that there’s no real way to compare individual precincts between 2017 and 2021, since early voting rules were almost completely changed – making early voting MUCH easier – when Democrats controlled the General Assembly in 2020-2021 – AFTER the 2017 election.
- In the Hampton Roads area, we saw a similar pattern – high turnout in “red” precincts, “meh” (or worse) turnout in “blue” precincts. Deep-“blue” areas in Norfolk saw turnout in the 20%s, 30%s or 40%s (e.g., the overwhelmingly McAuliffe “Chesterfield” precinct only saw 32.3% turnout; the heavily McAuliffe “Titustown” precinct only saw 25.8% turnout). So…the “reddest” precincts in Hampton Roads turned out at rates more than twice the “bluest” precincts.
- For comparison purposes, McAuliffe got 40,324 votes in Norfolk in 2021, up about 2% from Northam’s 39,453 Norfolk votes in 2017. As for Youngkin, he got 18,888 votes in Norfolk in 2021, up about 40% (!) from Gillespie’s 13,490 votes in Norfolk in 2017. In Newport News, McAuliffe got 32,399 votes in 2021, up about 6.7% from Northam’s 30,367 Newport News votes in 2017. As for Youngkin, he got 21,241 Newport News votes in 2021, up about 33% (!) from Gillespie’s 15,986 Newport News votes in 2017. In Hampton City, McAuliffe got 29,971 votes in 2021, up about 3.7% from Northam’s 28,906 Hampton City votes in 2017. As for Youngkin, he got 14,651 Hampton City votes in 2021, up about 33% (!) from Gillespie’s 11,050 Hampton City votes in 2017. Sensing a pattern here?
- In Northern Virginia, again we saw a similar pattern: the “bluest” precincts turned out at MUCH lower rates than the “reddest” ones, or even the relatively less-“blue” precincts. For instance, in heavily Democratic Alexandria, the “John Adams School” precinct went heavily for McAuliffe, but only turned out at a 33.6% rate, while the “City Hall” precinct went only narrowly for McAuliffe, but turned out at a 66.6% rate. In Arlington, clearly turnout was MUCH higher in the wealthy, mostly white, single-family-home far-north precincts (e.g., “Madison” went only by a relatively small margin for McAuliffe and turned out at 71.7%; same thing with “Thrifton”, which turned out at 71.0%) than in more diverse, less-wealthy southern part of the county (e.g., “Glebe” precinct went heavily for McAuliffe but turned at only 47.5%). And in Prince William County, some of the lowest-turnout precincts were in the “bluest” parts of the county (e.g., “Grayson” at just 32.5%, “Porter” at just 34.3%) while “redder” precincts turned out at much higher rates (e.g., “Heritage Hunt” at 72.9%, “Alvey” at 76.1%).
- For comparison purposes, McAuliffe got 73,013 votes in Arlington County in 2021, up about 7% from Northam’s 68,093 Arlington County votes in 2017. Youngkin, meanwhile, got 21,548 Arlington County votes in 2021, up about 32% (!) from Gillespie’s 16,268 Arlington County votes in 2017. And in Alexandria, McAuliffe got 43,866 votes in 2021, up about 7% from Northam’s 40,896 Alexandria votes in 2017. As for Youngkin, he got 14,013 Alexandria votes in 2021, up 29% (!) from Gillespie’s 10,822 Alexandria votes in 2017. In huge/”blue” Prince William County, McAuliffe got 87,352 votes in 2021, up a solid 17% from Northam’s 74,932 Prince William County votes in 2017. Buuuuut…Youngkin got 64,658 Prince William County votes in 2021, up a whopping 39% (!) from Gillespie’s 46,454 Prince William County votes in 2017. In also-huge/”blue” Loudoun County, McAuliffe got 89,390 votes in 2021, up a strong 28% from Northam’s 69,778 Loudoun County votes in 2017. Buuuut…Youngkin got 71,467 Loudoun County votes in 2021, up a massive 54% (!!) from Gillespie’s 46,396 Loudoun County votes in 2017. And in enormous Fairfax County, McAuliffe got 286,316 votes in 2021, up 12% from Northam’s 255,200 Fairfax County votes in 2017. Not bad, except that Youngkin got 152,100 Fairfax County votes in 2021, up about 30% (!) from Gillespie’s 117,141 Fairfax County votes in 2017. Again, sensing a pattern here?
Bottom line: For a variety of reasons (including tapping into and stoking anger, grievance; the fact that Virginia always tends to swing in the opposite direction of a new president’s party in the following year’s gubernatorial race; spending a TON of money to craft Youngkin’s image; etc.), the Youngkin campaign was able to energize its “base” voters to turn out at incredibly high rates for a gubernatorial election, while the McAuliffe campaign – while also energizing its voters – wasn’t able to keep up with Youngkin (again, for a variety of reasons, including President Biden’s relatively low approval ratings, the absence of a real equivalent to Youngkin’s potent-albeit-dishonest-and-disgusting “Southern Strategy” variant, the fact that the Republicans have a massive media “echo chamber” that certainly isn’t matched by anything comparable on the Democratic side, and certainly not by the false equivalence/”both sides” “mainstream media”), resulting in McAuliffe’s relatively narrow loss (by just 1.9 points) in a state that Joe Biden had just won the year before by 10 points, and which Ralph Northam won in 2017 by 9 points.