Hillary Clinton has won Virginia, a crucial swing state that Democrats have now captured for three presidential elections in a row.
The race was much, much closer than polling suggested. Clinton had consistently led Donald Trump throughout the race in Virginia, with the RealClearPolitics polling average putting her ahead by around 5 points in the state. We don’t know the final vote count yet, but the race is looking like it was settled by only 1 or 2 percentage points.
Still, Clinton will be extremely relieved to have secured Virginia’s 13 electoral votes — votes she may need given Trump’s surprisingly strong showing in several states.
Democrats expected to have a lock on Virginia. They didn’t.
Most political analysts thought Virginia would be a safe state for Clinton and the Democrats.
There was a lot of talk about how the explosive growth in population of the Washington, DC, suburbs had pushed the state to the left. In the 2000s, more than half of the state’s population growth occurred in the northern Virginia suburbs near DC, according to one paper by Lisa A. Sturtevant, a George Mason professor.
The state was also becoming more diverse. From 2007 to 2013, the share of Virginia’s population composed of Latinos jumped by 38 percent. About one-third of the state’s recent population growth comes from new Latino immigrants, according to a study by the Commonwealth Institute. That growth came at a time when Barack Obama dramatically boosted turnout among African Americans.
All of that — plus the favorable polls — suggested Clinton would have a cakewalk in the state. But nearly three hours after the polls closed, the state was still too close to call. As of 10 pm, Clinton was only running slightly ahead of Trump.
She was mostly hurt by a fall in black turnout, particularly in the Hampton Roads region of the state, according to Geoffrey Skelley, an elections expert at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics.
Another big change was that, as we’re seeing nationally, rural parts of the country turned out for Trump in bigger margins than anyone expected, according to Skelley.
“She’s definitely underperforming what was expected,” he said. “She’ll win northern Virginia by a huge margin — and that’s going to save her — but she did a lot worse in places that relied on black turnout.”