‘Blue Tide’ Helped Biden Win in Virginia

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden arrives to speak to supporters, early Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020, in Wilmington, Del., as Jill Biden looks on. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

By Julia Raimondi

November 7, 2020

Once considered a battleground state, election experts say now you have to call Virginia securely a Democratic stronghold.

RICHMOND-It has been four days since the 2020 presidential election, and Joe Biden is now the President-elect. While there is still counting going on in the swing states of Arizona, Nevada, and Georgia, the dust has more or less settled in Virginia. After years of being a swing state itself, the Associated Press called Virginia for Joe Biden only 31 minutes after the polls closed at 7 p.m.. 

Biden won Virginia at a considerable margin of 54%, a little over four points higher than when Hillary Clinton won the state in 2016. It was no surprise that Democrat strongholds in the state such as Richmond City and Northern Virginia went to Biden, but there were a few surprising upsets. In a remarkable move, traditionally Republican districts like Chesterfield County and Virginia Beach went blue on election night. 

Dr. Daniel Palazzolo, a political science professor at University of Richmond, helped explain why.

“In 2018, you saw this blue tide,” Palazzolo said. “You’re still seeing it. It persisted here.”

Virginia Continues to Change

Virginia has been changing steadily more Democrat since at least 2009, Palazzolo said. That was the last time a Republican won a statewide election. Since then, Republicans in the state have only been able to carry local districts. The Republican districts that remain have been becoming increasingly rural, and suburban districts have become more likely to flip.

On Tuesday, Chesterfield County was one of those districts. In 2016, Chesterfield County went to President Trump by 48.5% and to Rep. Dave Brat (R) for the VA-07 Congressional District. But in 2020, Chesterfield County voted for Joe Biden by 52.26% and Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D) is poised to win re-election after flipping the VA-07 in 2018.

Palazzolo cited two reasons that are likely behind Chesterfield’s flip. First, Chesterfield is more racially and ethnically diverse. According to a 2018 Chesterfield County government report, there is a long-term trend showing an increase in diversity over time. 

“Another part is, as we have seen nationwide and certainly in Virginia, there’s an anti-Trump vote in the suburbs, specifically among white women,” Palazzolo said. 

Palazzolo added that there is not yet quantitative data to prove that, because of lack of exit polling data, but that it has been reflective in qualitative data from focus groups. Based on the pattern, more suburban, college-educated, white women are less inclined to vote for the GOP and especially Trump. 

Virginia Beach’s flip, on the other hand, was less surprising. It is much less Republican than Chesterfield. In previous elections, Palazzolo said he would consider the district a competitive bellwether to signal the outcome of a statewide race. But because of an increase in voter registration among Democrats during the Obama administrations, it has trended further left.  

Overall, Palazzolo said it was now safe to say that Virginia can currently be considered a strong blue state. For now.

“At this point it is a blue state,” Palazzolo said. “But that’s not to say it can’t become competitive in the future.”

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