Is there any key demographic Northam for governor is not bungling?
In a state Hillary Clinton won by five points, Ralph Northam, the Democratic nominee to succeed longtime Clinton ally Terry McAuliffe as Virginia governor, should be coasting to victory, but several key demographics in the state may not break the right way.
The first key demographic is "expansive growth" in the immigrant population in Northern Virginia, which has been a "major reason for Virginia's steady march toward the Democratic Party."
The problem for the Democrats, according to The New York Times writer Michael Tackett, is that the "lack of engagement from the brimming immigrant population" in the D.C. suburbs "represents a key challenge for Mr. Northam" and "a source of worry for his supporters" in the race against Republican Ed Gillespie.
Mr. Northam, who is from the southern part of the state, is not well known in the vote-rich Washington suburbs, and even some Democrats have said the campaign has failed to generate excitement.
Underlining the concern for Democrats who must win big in the D.C. suburbs to overcome Republican dominance in the rest of the state, The Times adds:
If the core constituency that helped Democrats carry the state in the last three presidential elections does not turn out, it will be that Republican Virginia that prevails.
Further complicating matters for Northam is the off-year election cycle:
In a presidential election year, Democrats have been able to rack up large majorities in the counties near Washington. But turnout drops substantially in off-year cycles, and Republicans can capitalize on a more loyal core of voters.
Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and Joe Biden have all campaigned for Northam, but, as Matt Vespa at townhall.com says, "something in the internal polling has the Northam camp spooked," apparently leading to this week's controversial attack ad on Gillespie.
A second key demographic is the Bernie Sanders-Elizabeth Warren wing of the Democratic Party. Senators Sanders and Warren had backed Northam's primary opponent, while Northam had the "support of Obama-Clinton Democrats like Governor Terry McAuliffe."
Sanders has "refused to endorse Northam, "a mainstream progressive," in the general election. Albert R. Hunt at bloomberg.com reports that the Sanders organization "endorsed six Democrats in state legislative races but pointedly declined to back Northam," who "doesn't back Sanders's embrace of a single-payer national health-care system and free college education":
Democratic strategists hope that disdain for Trump will matter more to Virginia liberals than the Sanders snub.
A Northam camp that is nervous about the D.C. suburbs has the added worry of the Bernie snub.
A third demographic concern is raised by the liberal magazine The Nation, which has posted an article explained by its title: "The Obsession With White Voters Could Cost Democrats the Virginia Governor's Race." The writer, Steve Phillips, laments the "cataclysmic collapse of black-voter turnout" in the 2016 presidential election, due in part to under-funding for "African-American voter mobilization."
Phillips says the Northam campaign, rather than "heeding last year's wake-up call," is making the same mistake this year. Citing exit polls saying 53 percent of Clinton's "nearly 2 million voters" were "people of color," Phillips says of the $17 million spent by Northam to date:
Logically, if a majority of the target-voter universe consists of people of color, a campaign that wanted to win would spend a majority of its money trying to get those voters to the polls.
According to Phillips, "the Northam campaign's biggest line item – nearly $9 million – consists of funds" used to run television ads "that attack the Republican nominee for his ties to the oil company Enron." Phillips questions the "strategic rationale" of those ads, given the "centrality" of motivating "people of color" to "come out and support the Democratic ticket."
Phillips also contends that the Northam campaign has failed to provide the requisite resources and attention to the black candidate for lieutenant governor, Justin Fairfax. Even worse, as a column by Patrick Wilson at richmond.com describes, the campaign printed "some fliers" that excluded "all references to Mr. Fairfax – including his picture" – to "accommodate a union" that differs with Fairfax on pipeline construction.
To the D.C. suburbs and the Bernie snub we can add apprehension over outreach to people of color, according to Mr. Phillips.
A fourth demographic is "white rural voters" in Southern Virginia, as Vespa at townhall.com reports. In addition to questioning whether Northam cares about rural voters, Vespa adds:
In Southern Virginia, Northam was put off balance by the recent news that the Trump White House would be rescinding the Obama-era Clean Power Plan regulations that impacted coal workers in the state.
Vespa notes that "[l]ocal news stations have stories on coal every day in these areas, and they haven't forgotten Hillary Clinton saying last year 'we're going to put a lot of coal miners out of business.'"
The D.C. suburbs, the Bernie snub, people of color, and white rural voters. Is there any key demographic the Northam campaign is not bungling?