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Is Virginia Now a Tossup State?

With Sen. George Allen's (R) decision to concede this afternoon, The Fix took a look at where Allen and winner Jim Webb (D) got their votes.

Jim Webb
Democrat Jim Webb is officially the winner of the Virginia Senate race. (AP)

Webb won with 1,172,541 votes to Allen's 1,165,324. That's a difference of 7,217 votes out of 2,337,865 cast -- a margin of far less than 1 percent.

All told, Webb carried just four of the state's 11 congressional districts -- the 3rd, 8th, 10th and 11th. The 3rd takes in the city of Richmond, while the 8th, 10th and 11th are located in the near or far suburbs of Washington, D.C. Six years ago Sen. Chuck Robb (D) also carried four districts (3rd, 4th, 8th and 11th) but lost 52 percent to 48 percent.

So how did Webb pull off a victory winning essentially the same territories? The answer is the enormous movement toward Democrats in Northern Virginia.

The 10th District, held by Rep. Frank Wolf (R), is the best example of the changing nature of the Old Dominion's northern reaches. In 2000, Allen carried the district with 59 percent (191,704 votes) to Robb's 41 percent (134,486). Six years later, Webb won the 10th with 50 percent (120,868) to Allen's 49 percent (118,030). That's a 10-point swing in the space of six years.

The 8th District, which encompasses the strongly Democratic inner suburbs, grew even more blue between 2000 and 2006. In 2000, Robb carried the district 60 percent to 40 percent over Allen; Webb won it 69 percent to 30 percent over Allen -- another 10-point swing to Democrats.

The overwhelming support in Northern Virginia for Webb is about more than demographics, however. Allen's "macaca" comment woke up a sleepy NOVA electorate who had previously paid little attention to the race. Webb's fundraising soared -- fueled by donations from the affluent D.C. suburbs as well as national donors looking to score an upset of a potential 2008 Republican presidential candidate. Webb's unequivocal opposition to the war in Iraq and Allen's unwillingness to break strongly with President Bush also likely had a major impact in increasing his margins in suburbia.

Democrats have won the last three contested, non-presidential statewide elections in Virginia, beginning with Mark Warner in 2001, Tim Kaine in 2005 and now Webb in 2006. The lone GOP victory during those years was Bush's 2004 win over John Kerry (D) (Bush won 54 percent to Kerry's 45 percent).

Those results seem to suggest that Virginia can rightly considered a tossup state heading into 2008. Vice President Mark Warner anyone? Let the courting begin.

By Chris Cillizza  |  November 9, 2006; 3:15 PM ET
Categories:  Senate  
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