Virginia Elections: GOP Still Losing Turnout Wars


The 2014 midterm election was a bloodbath for Democrats nationally – but Republicans’ failure to press their advantage cost them a U.S. Senate seat in Virginia. According to a new analysis conducted by Market Research Foundation (MRF), Republicans could have gained another seat in the Senate by simply replicating their 2013 gubernatorial victory margins in GOP strongholds.

“Had the GOP simply equaled the victory margin in 2014 that had been achieved in 2013, an additional 22,800 votes would have resulted in the Senate contest going to the GOP,” MRF’s analysis found.

Victory margins in a whopping fifty Republican jurisdictions were lower in 2014 than they were in the 2013 gubernatorial race – despite turnout being the same or higher than it was last November.

“Higher turnout in GOP counties should mean higher GOP net votes and yet it didn’t,” the MRF analysis found.

In Russell County, where Mitt Romney received 67 percent of the vote two years ago, turnout was up by 3 percent yet the GOP victory margin shrank by more than 500 votes (from 2,006 to 1,505).  In Botetourt County, where Romney pulled 68 percent of the vote, turnout was up by 2 percent yet the GOP edge also shrank – from 4,442 to 3,808 votes.

This trend continued in rural counties from Amelia to Salem – turning what should have been a 5,000-vote GOP upset into a narrow 17,000-vote defeat.

What happened?  According to the MRF analysis, the GOP has succeeded in bolstering turnout in key exurb counties – including Chesterfield, Loudon and Hanover – but “fell down in the many smaller, rural counties that in reality form the bedrock of their base.”

Clearly the Democratic turnout machine failed to deliver in 2014 – in Virginia and many other states – but Democrats “retained a toe-hold” in areas of Virginia where the GOP should have been rolling up much bigger margins.

“By minimizing their losses in enemy turf, the Democrats enhance their strengths elsewhere,” the analysis concluded.

According to MRF researchers, voters in the counties where the GOP could have achieved its upset win “are more insular and require more direct contact.”  In other words mass media is unlikely to impact them to the same degree it does in urbanized areas.

To review the data for yourself, click on the link below.