Keys to the Election - 9th District
Here are the past results for the 9th and (statewide):
'05 Gov: Kilgore - 55.3%, Kaine - 43.1%; (46-51.7)
'05 LG: Bolling - 56.9%, Byrne - 43%; (50.5-49.3)
'05 AG: McDonnell - 52.5%, Deeds - 47.8%; (50-50)
'04 Pres: Bush - 59.5%, Kerry - 39.3%; (53.7-45.4)
'01 Gov: Earley - 46.8%, Warner - 52.3%; (47-52.1)
'01 LG: Katzen - 49.1%, Kaine - 48.8%; (48-50.4)
'00 Pres: Bush - 54.5%, Gore - 42.4%; (52.5-44.4)
'00 Sen: Allen - 56.6%, Robb - 43.4%; (52.2-47.7)
'97 Gov: Gilmore - 57.1%, Beyer - 40.9%; (55.8-42.6)
'97 LG: Hager - 50.7%, Payne - 44.1%; (50.2-45.1)
'97 AG: Earley - 55.6%, Dolan - 44.4; (57.5-42.4)
'96 Pres: Dole - 42.6%, Clinton - 45.6%; (51.1-48.9)
'96 Sen: John Warner - 44.5%, M Warner - 55.5%; (52.6-47.4)
(Keep in mind the district changed after 2001 which made the 9th a tad bit more GOP leaning.)
As you can see, the GOP has moved from a time where they could lose the 9th by a considerable margin and still win; to now a situation where it seems almost imperative that they carry the 9th.
Since 1996, many things have happened. First, the GOP was winning Fairfax County in 1996 and getting huge margins in places like Henrico and Loudoun; where they now are lucky to break 52%. Because of this shift, the rural areas of the state like SWVA have become much more important to the GOP strategy. Even though the 2005 election may not be the best indicator of these suburban trends, few disagree that the GOP will have a tough time holding their Bush '04 margins in most suburban areas going forward.
Also, the 9th is an area that is actually becoming more Republican contrary to the rest of the state. In areas like Tazewell and Russell counties, coal mining unions have lost some of their political clout in the area and both of those counties broke for the GOP in the past 2 elections. The rest of the area is largely Republican anyway, but the margins are holding, which is a good sign for the GOP here.
As it appears, the GOP almost has to win the 9th in order to win a statewide election. That being the case, it gives the dems a great opportunity. If they can run candidates who perform well in areas like Roanoke and the 9th district, it then forces the GOP to have to run strong in the traditional GOP strongholds where our numbers are shrinking. That folks, is a recipe for democratic victory in Virginia.
Make no mistake, SWVA cannot come close to offsetting the vote rich suburban areas forever. The bleeding has to be stemed is those parts of the state in order to prevent Virginia from "turning blue". Even so, SWVA may hold the key to at least postponing that color change for a few more elections if nothing else. As for right now, the 9th district is still a major player in the electoral map of Virginia.