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The three entirely different electorates of Prince William County

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Conn Carroll

The New York Times had a front page story in the paper Thursday about President Obama’s dominance in Prince William County, Virginia and what it means for the Republican party going forward. The NYT writes:

If Prince William looks like the future of the country, Democrats have so far developed a much more successful strategy of appealing to that future. On Tuesday, President Obama beat Mitt Romney by almost 15 percentage points in Prince William, nearly doubling George W. Bush’s margin over Al Gore in 2000, helping Mr. Obama to a surprisingly large victory in Virginia.

And it is true. With 98 percent of all precincts now reporting, Obama will have beaten Romney by 16 points, which is double the 8 points President Bush beat Al Gore by in 2000. But Prince William County has had more than one election between Bush and Obama, and the results show vastly different electorates turning out for each contest.

In 2004, Bush beat John Kerry 53 percent to 46 percent, with 132,063 total people voting.

But just a year later in 2005, hardly enough time for a demographic surge, Democrat Tim Kaine beat Republican Jerry Kilgore 50 percent to 48 percent with just 66,797 people voting.

In 2006, a wave Democratic election year, Jim Webb beat George Allen by a pretty much identical 50 percent to 48 percent margin, with 88,111 people coming out to vote.

In 2008, Obama beat McCain by the same exact 16 point margin he beat Romney (58-42), with 162,446 people turning out. That same year Democrat Mark Warner crushed Jim Gilmore 65-33 in the U.S. Senate race.

But in 2009, again hardly enough time for a major demographic switch, Gov. Bob McDonnell crushed The Washington Post endorsed Creigh Deeds by 18 points (59-41), with 75,000 Virginians coming out to vote.

In 2010, there were no state wide races, but among the 91,000 votes cast in House races in Prince William County (slices of VA 01, VA 10, and VA 11) Republicans got 52 percent to Democrats 46 percent.

So by looking at more than just two data points, a more complicated story of Prince William County emerges. When President Obama is on the ballot, it is an overwhelming blue county with turnout well above 150,000 and double digit margins for Democratic candidates.

But in off year congressional elections Prince William is a swing county which turns about 90,000 voters and in odd year gubernatorial elections Prince William seems to lean Republican with about only 70,000 people coming out to vote.

If Prince William truly is a microcosm of the American electorate, as The New York Times claims it is, then Democrats would be wise not to count on the same America that turned out for Obama turning out in future elections.

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