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The most important number in politics today

40

That's the percentage of the Virginia electorate that identified themselves as conservatives, the highest number among that ideological group in the Commonwealth since 1994.

Conservative Turnout
Year Race Turnout Dem GOP Ind
2009 GOV 40% 9 91
2008 PRZ 33% 18 80
2008 SEN 32% 30 68
2006 SEN 35% 12 88
2004 PRZ 38% 15 85
2000 PRZ 31% 13 86
2000 SEN 31% 16 84
1997 GOV 35% 18 81
1996 PRZ 38% 16 78 5
1996 SEN 39% 24 76
1994 SEN 40% 17 71 12

And, not only did conservatives comprise an extremely large segment of the Virginia electorate, they also cast their ballots for Republicans at a historically high rate; 91 percent of self-identifying conservatives voted GOP while just nine percent cast their vote for Democrats.

(Compare that to 2008 when conservatives were one in every three voters and roughly one if five -- 18 percent -- voted Democrat and you see the considerable change in that segment of the electorate in just one year's time. A hat tip, as always, to Post polling director Jon "JC" Cohen for digging into the data.)

Those twin figures are clear evidence that the Republican party base is clearly energized and polarized -- a worrisome sign for Democrats heading into a midterm election.

Midterms are traditionally far lower turnout affairs than presidential year election and, as such, wind up being a battle between the two parties' bases. When one side is significantly more energized than the other then, major swings in seats happen; witness Democrats widespread gains in the House and Senate in 2006 when Democratic base voters turned out in droves to signal their unhappiness with President George W. Bush.

That same phenomenon now appears to be happening for the Republican base in regards President Barack Obama. As has been shown in tea parties and town halls earlier this year, the most conservative element of the GOP is mad as hell about the expansion of government under Obama and they aren't going to take it anymore.

What remains to be seen is whether the Republican establishment can direct the intensity/anger of their base in positive directions. The unwillingness of the base to accept the candidacy of state Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava (R) in Upstate New York almost certainly cost the party a seat it should have won.

If that scenario plays itself out in future contests -- somewhat unlikely due to the unique ballot and party system in New York -- the energy of the base won't translate into the sort of Republican gains it should in a midterm election.

By Chris Cillizza  |  November 4, 2009; 7:59 PM ET
Categories:  Most Important Number  
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Comments

Chris, I'm amazed you fail to mention that this was the lowest voter turnout for a Virginia gubernatorial election in forty years. What does that do to your number?

Posted by: nodebris | November 5, 2009 11:00 PM | Report abuse

If you want a break from chris' constant 'conservative' cheerleading, Dionne is a breath of fresh air.

==

His columns are great (and better-written and -reasoned) but his blog is not so hot. Last I was there it's dominated by a few supply-side free-market loonies who post all day.

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | November 5, 2009 2:53 PM | Report abuse

Thank you Mikeinmidland @901.

The Fix is indulging in some sloppy thinking in this post.

Posted by: margaretmeyers | November 5, 2009 11:04 AM | Report abuse

Chris:

The most important number is still 60 - the number of Senators needed to move the Health Care bill forward - this is a very serious massive bill - common sense would dictate that Obama would want MASSIVE REPUBLICAN support -

Doesn't Obama want political cover?

Everything that will go wrong with health care will be blamed on Obama from here on out - they are convinced that it is 1994 all over again - that analogy is guiding WAY too much judgement this year.

.

Posted by: 37thand0street | November 5, 2009 10:39 AM | Report abuse

If you want a break from chris' constant 'conservative' cheerleading, Dionne is a breath of fresh air.

Posted by: drindl | November 5, 2009 10:13 AM | Report abuse

kk60 - the Wilsonian Ds became neocons after the conversion of Irving Kristol. Were you out of the country from 1964 until recently? :-)

Posted by: mark_in_austin | November 5, 2009 9:53 AM | Report abuse

"@M-I-A: I apologize. I overreached. It's just the retyping of these RNC false narratives is kinda tired. I'm at ground zero and NOBODY showed up on Tuesday in Virginia. How anyone can draw broad conclusions when only Floyd and Aunt Bee showed up is beyond me. :)"

Anyone who reads anything into the VA results beyond "Creigh Deeds ran the worst campaign seen in Virginia in decades" is a fool. He did everything wrong. And he wasn't a good fit for the Democratic base in any event.

Posted by: koolkat_1960 | November 5, 2009 9:52 AM | Report abuse

"You can divide Conservatives out - some are more motivated by Fiscal issues - some are more motivated by Social issues - and some are more motivated by a desire for a strong military and foreign policy."

I'd like to see the definition of "conservative" that includes "motivated by a desire for a strong military and foreign policy." That is 180 degrees in the other direction. Ever hear of the word isolationists?

Posted by: koolkat_1960 | November 5, 2009 9:48 AM | Report abuse

@M-I-A: I apologize. I overreached. It's just the retyping of these RNC false narratives is kinda tired. I'm at ground zero and NOBODY showed up on Tuesday in Virginia. How anyone can draw broad conclusions when only Floyd and Aunt Bee showed up is beyond me. :)

Posted by: broadwayjoe | November 5, 2009 9:40 AM | Report abuse

Hmmm, what is it that motivates or sparks the activity of "the base"? I think that it is losing an election, especially when there is recent evidence of the possibility of winning elections when the hard work is done.

I see 2010 and 2012 as good years for VA Dems.

"The world is falling on the Dems" theme of Fix columns recently is a little overdone, I would argue. (Actually, I'll let AndyR3's recent posts make that argument for me.)

Self-reflection on the election, good. Self-immolation, unnecessary.

Posted by: prairiepopulist | November 5, 2009 9:40 AM | Report abuse

BWJ, some counties in west TX with no black population at all - mountain ranch counties - voted for BHO. Think rural Colorado. No counties in the Panhandle dry plains [think rural Kansas] voted D. Analogize to Amarillo, not Alpine or Van Horn, thank you. :-)

Posted by: mark_in_austin | November 5, 2009 9:32 AM | Report abuse

This "analysis" is badly flawed.

Given the term "conservative" is totally undefined, this "poll" is not only unimportant, it is meaningless. If conservative means low taxes, sure, I guess everyone in Virginia is conservative. If conservative means you agree with Limbaugh, Audra Shay, and Lynn (we need a "Great White Hope") Jenkins, probably about 17 percent of Virginians are in that category.

Further undermining the poll's significance is the appallingly low voter turnout on Tuesday in Virginia and the fact that the voters were wildly disproportionately older and white. Because Deeds made no effort win black votes, the black turnout (a key to Dem victories in swing states) was hardly measurable. Same with Hispanic voters.
That WON'T be the case in 2010, a midterm election year.

"GOP" IS a defined term. And a recent poll, not highlighted in this space as far as we know, showed only 17 percent of Americans self-identify as Republicans, a drop of three percent from just a couple of months ago.

Keep transcribing the "GOP comeback"/Turn Back the Clock talking point if you must. But why is this in the Washington Post, which serves, not West Texas, but a 70% minority city that voted for BHO about 47 to 1. What's the deal?

Posted by: broadwayjoe | November 5, 2009 9:19 AM | Report abuse

As I'm sure you realize, Chris, it is not that suddenly more people in Virginia are Republicans. It's that the Democrats (especially the newly-minted 2008 variety) did not bother to go to the polls this year.

The party that lost the presidency is more motivated to vote. That's always a problem with off-year elections, and probably explains the Dem guvs during Bush43 and the Rep. guvs during Clinton, etc.

Of course, Deeds didn't help himself much.

Posted by: mikenmidland | November 5, 2009 9:01 AM | Report abuse

The spew of the brain dead piles up. It never amounts to a single intelligent concept.

Posted by: snowbama | November 5, 2009 8:45 AM | Report abuse

...if Scozzafava had supported the Democrat *earlier*...

Posted by: margaretmeyers | November 5, 2009 7:37 AM | Report abuse

And I think Deeds is proof that a lackluster candidate will show worse and worse the longer he is in front of the voters -- and Hoffman is proof that you can rush a lackluster candidate past the voters if they don't have a lot of time to consider.

And that dreadful Norm Coleman -- he gets elected because there's just 10 days for the electorate to get used to the idea of voting for someone else after Wellstone died. I think if Scozzafava had supported Owens he might have been elected by a larger margin, not a smaller one. Owens gained 15% from her dropping out, while Hoffman got just 9%. And those were all from the GOP's votes -- they garner 60% of the votes in that district.

Posted by: margaretmeyers | November 5, 2009 7:33 AM | Report abuse

Mark and Drindl, I'm also surprised by the 45% for Hoffman. As Drindl says, you have to consider the huge blast of super-friendly publicity from Fox and talk radio, and the endorsements and the big out-of-state cash and the associated ground troops of the Right.

But I think you also have to consider the rush this all occurred in. The Hoffman forces swept in so fast the voters already affiliated with the GOP werenot given much time to consider Hoffman carefully -- or even hear much from him himself.

My brother-the-judge was about 40 years old when he was born, and his only piece of love advice when we were young adults was that you didn't sleep with anyone until you had known him for 6 weeks because anyone can look good for 6 weeks. And I think if the Conservatives had been able to keep Hoffman's campaign under 6 weeks CD23 might be sleeping with Hoffman today.

Posted by: margaretmeyers | November 5, 2009 7:08 AM | Report abuse

Defeat was snatched from the jaws of victory. In a two way race with Bill Owens Dede Scozzafava would have won with 60% of the vote. Over the past 14 congressional elections Dems only polled over 30% of the vote 3 times in the past 26 years! The loss of the seat is squarely on Mr. Hoffman. Hopefully he will run in his OWN district in 2010. The Republican netroots want to purge moderates, even where the party is moderate rather than conservative. Here in St. Lawrence County in NY-23 one of our Republican committee members intends to register as Independent next week. The "true" conservatives are going on the warpath. I don't think an intraparty war can be avoided.

Posted by: welchd | November 5, 2009 6:48 AM | Report abuse

drindl, did you actually see and hear the guy? No presence and no clue. It is amazing that he got any votes. It is amazing that he was chosen, by anyone. I do not think a person with less spark exists outside a depression ward. If he got 45%, a living breathing person saying the same message should have won handily. "Night of the Living Dead" came to mind when I saw him speak on "The Daily Show".

I know those voters are taciturn compared with urban dwellers, but you could drive a freight train through Hoffman's pauses. Goodhair says dumb stuff, but he is personable and has a sense of humor, and he has only a 36% favorable rating in TX. I would have thought a Second Coming endorsement could not have helped Hoffman in the Bible Belt. Age of television? Heck, Hoffman almost turned the premise of the great Redford movie "The Candidate" on its ear.

Posted by: mark_in_austin | November 5, 2009 6:17 AM | Report abuse

some are more motivated by a desire for a strong military and foreign policy.

==

Since we spend more on the military than just about the whole rest of the world put together, and with nobody to worry about in any way that can be avoided by armies, maybe those "strong defense conservatives" need some counseling to deal with their fears.

You know, "therapy."

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | November 5, 2009 1:31 AM | Report abuse

One can not lump them all together.

==

Nonsense. You guys are so slavishly conformist you all use the same secondhand words, and you all get your daily emails that tell you what to say today.

Liberals disagree about everything, conservatives try hard as they can to be as interchangeable as piston rods.

You're about as individualistic as ants.

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | November 5, 2009 1:28 AM | Report abuse

Leave the Conservatives alone - what is the big deal?


Conservatives are not all of the same thinking -


You can divide Conservatives out - some are more motivated by Fiscal issues - some are more motivated by Social issues - and some are more motivated by a desire for a strong military and foreign policy.


One can not lump them all together.

.

Posted by: 37thand0street | November 5, 2009 1:23 AM | Report abuse

Welcome Back Carter

==

Carter is respected all over the world. Bush is reviled, and the passage of time will never vindicate him.

As much as you bedwetters despise Carter (tennis courts, Iran hostages, misery index) and as much as you revere Smirk (kept us safe, bringem own, Mission Accomplished), I bet that really pisses you off.

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | November 5, 2009 1:14 AM | Report abuse

Right now, I don't know nor care about baseball. I never did. Like all of these testosterone soaked stick and ball sports, it is just a stupid proxy, a fertility ritual, nothing more. I hate baseball.

==

Great for kids, it gets them outdoors and active, which is a good thing. Teaches teamwork and sportsmanship.

Not such a good thing when alleged adults run around in two-tone matching hats and T-shirts and fawn over other adult men.

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | November 5, 2009 12:51 AM | Report abuse

The New York Yankees are World Series Champions.

The last time they Won a Championship in the First Year of a new President was in 1977 when Jimmy Carter was President.

Welcome Back Carter

Posted by: Washington13 | November 5, 2009 12:15 AM | Report abuse

BIG (AND DANGEROUS) GOVERNMENT? BLAME BUSH-CHENEY.

Conservs mad as hell over the expansion of government under Obama?

Um, didn't George W. and Dick Cheney preside over the bailouts, TARP, the scare tactics?

Didn't Obama inherit the biggest budget deficit in history?

The premise here seems revisionist. True, Obamacare is costly, especially if the price-tag doesn't guarantee affordable coverage to all Americans, but you really can't finger Obama for being the all-time poster boy for big and bad (evil?) government.

That trophy still sits on the mantle of the Republican, George W. Bush.

***

GOV'T TORTURES ME WITH SILENT MICROWAVE WEAPONS, SAYS OUSTED HONDURAS PREZ

• Deposed Honduras President Manuel Zelaya confirms the essence what unjustly targeted citizens worldwide -- including this journalist -- have been reporting for years...

...MILITARY, SECRET SERVICES, AND INTEL AGENCIES of many nations, including the U.S., silently assault and torture "targeted individuals," including those regarded as "dissenters" or slandered as undesirables, with debilitating, health-degrading, "slow-kill" electromagnetic microwave and laser radiation weapons systems -- reported to include a nationwide installation camouflaged as cell towers, along with satellites and portable weaponry.

FOR THE REST OF THE STORY, AND THE AUTHOR'S ATTACK REPORTS, SEE:

http://nowpublic.com/world/govt-tortures-me-silent-microwave-weapons-ousted-s-prez

OR (if link is corrupted): http://NowPublic.com/scrivener RE: "Gov't Tortures" and "Gestapo USA."

Posted by: scrivener50 | November 4, 2009 11:48 PM | Report abuse

'shrink, I think it is amazing that Hoffman received 45% of the vote.'

why should that amaze you, given that he had the entire firepower of the rightwing media network and money behind him?

every single one of their 'stars' --fox, limbaugh, beck, palin, pawlenty, club for growth, militia, anti- choice networks, you name it -- all their heavy hitters came out behind him.. what's amazing is that they put their full firepower behind him, and flooded a small district with money and he still lost.

maybe the fact that rush limbaugh said Dede Scozzafava was guilty of 'bestiality', to people who are from her home district and know her, and Hoffman laughed at this, had something to do with his final defeat.

That with everything he had behind him, not that he lost, but that he didn't win, is the story.

Posted by: drindl | November 4, 2009 10:58 PM | Report abuse

Well, Republicans are harping on how the need to cater to the extremists even more, here's what the Dems are saying.

"1. It’s a reminder that “Democrats carry a burden of proof” to deliver real results, specifically in “creating and saving jobs, and restoring prosperity.” He added later, during the question-and-answer period that he believes it a tough time for incumbents, but that that “cuts both ways” for Democratic and Republican governors or gubernatorial candidates next year, especially given that 48 states are presently running budget deficits.

2. Second, it’s a reminder that "federal issues are a matter that, as the majority party, we need to show that we are a party of actions, not rhetoric." Later, during the question and answer, he expanded on this theme in response from a question from US News reporter Dan Gilgoff, saying that the DGA has been advising their candidates that "if the Republican opponent is trying to box you in on federal issues it is because they have no policy or platform of their own on state issues."

3. Finally, it showed that the “Republican Party is still in disarray and not ready to take over. They are very much still a house divided,” he said, dropping references to Rush Limbaugh and Michael Steele and reiterating the common Democratic talking point that the GOP is the “Party of No.”"

Glad the Democrats are learning from their mistakes. Doesn't seem like the Republicans are.

http://www.fivethirtyeight.com/2009/11/dga-chief-says-dems-carry-burden-of.html

Posted by: DDAWD | November 4, 2009 10:53 PM | Report abuse

'Those twin figures are clear evidence that the Republican party base is clearly energized and polarized -- a worrisome sign for Democrats heading into a midterm election.'

'91 percent of self-identifying conservatives voted GOP while just nine percent cast their vote for Democrats.'

Wow, what startling figures. Yawn. Guess I'll go someplace else if I want actual analysis.

Posted by: drindl | November 4, 2009 10:46 PM | Report abuse

Dave, while I'm here, sorry about the baseball, I am glad you saw CC trying on the Democrat thing for size.

Wasn't going to mention it myself. But it is part of a vetting process. If you can't work a Democrat values, or Democrat spending into your piece (I mean, so that no one laughs) you will never pass as an ignorant bigot with the base.

Posted by: shrink2 | November 4, 2009 10:41 PM | Report abuse

Right now, I don't know nor care about baseball. I never did. Like all of these testosterone soaked stick and ball sports, it is just a stupid proxy, a fertility ritual, nothing more. I hate baseball.


Posted by: shrink2 | November 4, 2009 10:33 PM | Report abuse

The following is quoted from your post

(Compare that to 2008 when conservatives
were one in every three voters and roughly
one if five -- 18 percent -- voted
Democrat[sic] and you . . .

The least I expect from national political reporters at the Washington Post is to have courtersy the use the correct adjective form of the DemocratIC Party's name.

C'mon Chris -- it's John Boehner & Company's job to refer to us as the Democrat Party -- its not your job to incorporate their adolescent pettiness into the Post's style manual.

Posted by: DaveinDC2 | November 4, 2009 10:19 PM | Report abuse

Yes.

Posted by: Washington13 | November 4, 2009 9:39 PM | Report abuse

matsui, shrink.

Posted by: mark_in_austin | November 4, 2009 9:34 PM | Report abuse

Well here is an honest statement.
I think it is amazing the Phillies let Pedro pitch when it was clear he did not have location, to say nothing of the obvious (his Daddy). If ARod had not been called out looking, hey on that pitch I was too, like all the millions of people watching on the TV, the game would have been over already.

Posted by: shrink2 | November 4, 2009 9:25 PM | Report abuse

Well, since you don't site a source for this poll, I'm guessing it was an exit poll taken by someone. We all know the turn-out for this election was lower, older and more Republican than last year. That's great for the Republicans -- they have a dedicated base that turns up for all elections. Without any context, it's a little hard to join the Fix in his *amazement*.

I wish you'd given us the set-up for the question. Was it someone running up to anyone who would talk to them as they left the polling place? Did the voters say "Today I'm a Conservative. That means whatever the TV tells me it means." Because just a year ago a lot of these people voted for Obama.

And I think your reading of CD23 is wrong. I think the portion of the GOP base that was willing to vote for Hoffman,or could be bullied by outside money and heavy media support into voting for Hoffman, DID vote for Hoffman. And he lost.

Posted by: margaretmeyers | November 4, 2009 9:19 PM | Report abuse

shrink, I think it is amazing that Hoffman received 45% of the vote.

Posted by: mark_in_austin | November 4, 2009 8:45 PM | Report abuse

2010 is positioning itself to be a repeat of 1994.

==

bwahahahahah!!!

Based on what? Two GOVERNOR RACES?!?!

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | November 4, 2009 8:27 PM | Report abuse

The results in Virgina and New Jersey in 2009 match the results that occurred in those states in 1993.

2010 is positioning itself to be a repeat of 1994.

Although, the best thing that can happen to Republicans in 2010 is that they do not win the Majority in the House, but rather come very close.

Then they can stop any legislation by picking off Democrats and still have Democrats to blame as the representatives in the majority going into 2012.

Much like Jimmy Carter.

Posted by: Washington13 | November 4, 2009 8:23 PM | Report abuse

Now you're writing about the popularity of *words*

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | November 4, 2009 8:17 PM | Report abuse

"What remains to be seen is whether the Republican establishment can direct the intensity/anger of their base in positive directions."

One positive direction is clear, the anger directed at the Republican establishment.
They opened Pandora's Box and the evil released is biting the social conservatives (the bigot baiters) hard where the sun does not shine.

But the anger directed toward the Democratic establishment is real and healthy too. There, so balanced, I feel good about that.

Posted by: shrink2 | November 4, 2009 8:17 PM | Report abuse

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