It’s fair to say that the overriding theme of my political blogging has been Republicans in Virginia are way too far to the right, and they’re going to lose the majority soon because of it. Governor Kaine’s election was the first major sign that this is so, Sen. George Allen’s ousting by Sen. Jim Webb was the second sign, and the the ever-shrinking gap between Dems and Republicans in the General Assembly is on the ongoing sign. Now comes a major new poll of Virginia voters conducted by the Post, the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard that makes it as clear as ever that the shift to Democratic dominance in Virginia is well underway.
Mirroring the national mood, Virginians’ approval of Bush and support for U.S. policies in Iraq have eroded as the war has dragged on. Bush is the worst of the past nine presidents, say Virginia’s independent voters, who helped him win in 2004 but now say they are more likely to prefer that a Democrat rather than a Republican be the next president.
State residents’ anxieties mirror those expressed by voters nationally, challenging the notion that Virginians are at odds with the rest of the country on key issues and giving Democrats an opportunity to win the state’s 13 electoral votes.
But, more than a year before the general election, this poll shows that four in 10 voters prefer that a Democrat be elected to the White House in 2008, compared with 33 percent who said they favor a Republican. One in 10 said they prefer an independent.
Other interesting numbers:
- Only 17% of Virginia independents want to see a Republican in the White House come 2009
- Just 37% of all voters believe it’s hypothetically possible for the U.S. to ever stabilize Iraq
- 35% of people believe that it was worth fighting the Iraq War
- Independents are 33% more likely to believe that Democratic officeholders represent their views on Iraq than Republican officeholders
It’s not all candy and flowers. Many independents believe that Republicans’ fiscal policies are better than Democrats, and that Republicans are better on national security than Democrats. But I’d argue that Gov. Warner and Gov. Kaine’s back-to-back victories, premised substantially on the topic of fiscal policy, demonstrate that a majority Virginians believe that, at least in those specific races, the Democrats’ fiscal stance is superior to the Republicans’.
As was evidenced by the often-ugly Republican primaries held around the state last month, the Republican base is totally disconnected from the reality of the changing political landscape in the state. Many Republican activists continue to declare that only commies think that Bush’s adventure in Iraq isn’t worth the cost, and believe that only by moving far, far to the right on tax matters can they possibly retain their majority. The regular ol’ Republicans have been pushed out of the party, and are left standing at a distance, clucking their tongues and shaking their heads; it’s obvious to them where their party went wrong.
I’d assumed that the day when Virginia voted for a Democrat for president would be the day that upstate Virginia had just gotten too damned big. As it turns out, Republicans have managed to drive away a substantial percentage of independents, the very independents that are necessary for either party to win in the commonwealth.
It will be surprising if we fail take the senate this November. But, at this rate, it’s plausible that we could take the house, too. All races come down to two people, of course. They’re not hypothetical match-ups, but real people between whom the voters must choose. Polls be damned, they’re going to vote for the candidate that they like the best. But now we know that they’re what color spectacles that they’re wearing and, at last, they’re not rose.