CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — When Democrats picked up three House seats in Virginia last week and Tim Kaine cruised to victory in the Senate race, it cemented a trend that was already in progress. It started when Barack Obama won the presidential election in the state in 2008. It continued when he won again in 2012 and by the time Hillary Clinton won in 2016, the state was decidedly purple. Now, it’s blue.
Due to an increased number of Hispanics and a growing college-educated white population, Virginia is no longer a swing state and will vote with the Democratic presidential candidate in every election through 2050, according to renowned demographer William Frey.
“If current party-based proclivities continue for different race and education groups, I see Virginia as a permanent blue state – extending the solid blue Northeast corridor beginning in New England down through New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, D.C. and most recently including Virginia,” says Frey, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and author of “Diversity Explosion: How New Racial Demographics are Remaking America.”
“It’s safe to assume [Virginia] will remain blue unless and until Republicans make a serious attempt to court urban and minority voting blocs,” Frey said.
The trends noted by Frey were apparent in last week’s midterm elections, with Virginia Republican Reps. Barbara Comstock, Dave Brat and Scott W. Taylor all losing their seats to Democratic women. Only four of Virginia’s 11 House members now are Republican; both senators are Democrats.
“Northern and coastal Virginia have been tugging Virginia blue for the last two decades. The surge in population in northern Virginia, all in the inner and outer D.C. suburbs, has added a huge highly educated and professional population to the Commonwealth,” says Jack Goldstone, a George Mason University professor and global fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center. “Same for the coastal cities, but also the Richmond suburbs. The traditional locally raised, white population is a smaller fraction. Add the growing minority vote to this urban, professional surge, and the demographics say Democrats win for the foreseeable future.”
Norman Ornstein, resident scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, agrees.
“These are not just in areas of northern Virginia. It’s true around Richmond and tidal area and obviously results in midterms suggest that Virginia has changed from being a swing state to a blue state,” Ornstein said.
Republican strategist John Brabender, who advised former GOP Sen. Rick Santorum’s 2012 presidential bid, notes that “college-educated moderate voters who were not born in Virginia are moving into the state.”
While college-educated white voters are a key factor in swinging Virginia blue, Frey says the growing Hispanic population, which tends to identify with the Democratic Party by a margin of two-to-one, is also pushing the state to the left.
But Ornstein gave some hope to Republican candidates looking to campaign in the state in future elections.