Democrats are understandably pumped after Tuesday’s elections. Democrats won the governor’s races in Virginia and New Jersey and scored additional victories across the country. The Dems erased a 32-seat Republican advantage in the Virginia House of Delegates and, depending upon recounts, could become the majority in the House.
Democrats are crediting their victories to energized voters response to Donald Trump’s presidency. Virginia Governor-elect Ralph Northam capitalized on Trump’s unpopularity among a majority of the voters of the Commonwealth to defeat Republican Ed Gillespie.
“Virginia has told us to end the divisiveness, that we will not condone hatred and bigotry—and to end the politics that have torn this country apart,” Northam said in his victory speech Tuesday night.
So do the Virginia results provide any early signs of what might happen in West Virginia next year, especially in the U.S. Senate race between incumbent Democrat Joe Manchin and, on the Republican side, either Congressman Evan Jenkins or Attorney General Patrick Morrisey?
Virginia had been more of a purple state, although it is clearly bluer after Tuesday. Hillary Clinton won by five points in Virginia, the only southern state to back the Democratic nominee. By contrast, Trump carried West Virginia by a whopping 42 points over Clinton.
Clinton won the Washington, D.C. suburbs and urban areas while Trump won rural areas of Virginia, including every county that borders West Virginia (except Loudoun County, which is just outside of D.C.).
The Trump counties in Virginia, especially those in Appalachia, are demographically similar to West Virginia—largely rural, white and poorer. Gillespie carried nearly every county Trump won last November.
Gillespie was particularly strong in counties that border West Virginia. He captured an average of 71 percent of the vote in 13 of the 14 counties. The lone exception, just like last year, was Loudoun County, where Northam won with 60 percent.
Here’s another way to look at the results:
Twenty-five of Virginia’s counties are considered Appalachian. Trump won all but one of those counties (Montgomery) last year with an average of 74 percent of the vote. Gillespie’s results were identical. He won 24 of the 25 Appalachian counties with 74 percent.
All 55 counties in West Virginia are considered part of Appalachia and Trump won every county in the state in 2016.
Nationally Democrats need something to build on after 2016, and they should be energized after Tuesday. However, the Virginia vote also showed Trump’s base remains strong. That’s a positive sign for Republican candidates in West Virginia next year and an area of concern for Senator Joe Manchin and the rest of the Democrats in the state.