News Release: Politics

Sep. 25,  2008

Yes, Virginia, It's True:

Battleground States Emerge in the Election

Virginia has stayed reliably red for more than a generation; President Lyndon Johnson was the last Democrat to win the state. However, polls have shown a statistical dead heat for weeks between Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain in their race for the presidency, and the Obama campaign has added more resources to the state, according to recent news reports.

"It is a big change for Virginia," for the state to be in play, says Emory political scientist and polling expert Alan Abramowitz. "The state hasn't voted for a Democrat for president since 1964."

"The change clearly reflects the growth of Northern Virginia and other demographic shifts as well as the popularity of the current and previous Democratic governors," says Abramowitz. "The ground game may be crucial here given the closeness of the race.

Emory political scientists Merle Black still sees the electoral map looking very similar to 2004, with the Northeast and the Pacific coast solidly Democratic, and the South still going to the Republicans – except possibly Virginia.

"Virginia is definitely in play this year. The Democrats have a realistic chance of carrying the state," says Black.

"The Democrats have built a stronghold in northern Virginia that may be difficult for the McCain campaign to overcome," he says, adding that recent polls show Obama 20 points ahead of McCain in northern Virginia, which is very similar to the results in the state's elections for its Democratic governor and senator. "The McCain campaign is clearly aware that they need to make some inroads in northern Virginia in order to possibly carry the whole state."

  • Abramowitz is a nationally known expert on national politics and elections and the author of "Voice of the People: Elections and Voting in the United States." His expertise includes election forecasting models, party realignment in the United States, congressional elections and the effects of political campaigns on the electorate. Contact Alan Abramowitz, 404-727-0108. 
  • Black, Emory's Asa G. Candler Professor of Politics and Government, is a renowned expert on national politics and the foremost authority on politics in the South. One the nation's most incisive commentators, Black is coauthor of "Divided America: The Ferocious Power Struggle in American Politics." Contact Merle Black, 404-727-6570.

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