For each of the past two presidential elections there have been these "swing states" which have, for all intents and purposes, decided the outcome of the national election.
In 2000 it was Florida and in 2004 it was essentially Ohio. In 2008 it could be Virginia's turn, which, among other states such as Missouri and Colorado, has enough electoral votes to count, has been trending away from reliably partisan voting, and is currently polling nearly dead-even between the two major candidates. This brings up the question: Could Virginia vote Democratic for president for the first time since 1964? If so, how did this happen and what does it mean?
Virginia is among the most reliably Republican states in the Union and for that reason the fact that it's possibly "up for grabs" this November may be cause for concern among Republican Party leaders. In fact, with an increasing percentage of the state population living in Northern Virginia and with recent Midwest or Northern transplants moving to areas such as Tidewater and Richmond, in many ways the Republican vote along with a tobacco farming heritage and sweet tea are among the few remaining ties Virginia has with the South.
Sure you'll find die-hard Southerners in parts of the state with accents so thick you can't understand a word they're saying and many might bristle at the accusation that Virginia is becoming less and less of a "southern" state, but the fact remains that it is much less so than it was in 1864 or even in 1964.
If the state is trending blue, it can in large part be attributed to demographic trends, especially in Northern Virginia. This area of the state, which can be loosely defined as the counties either directly touching the District of Columbia or tied economically and socially to D.C., votes Democratic in most regards and, as the most recent congressional elections showed, is becoming more liberal as time progresses. The importance is that, in terms of population, this area has a major say in state electoral trends. According to recent data by the Weldon Cooper Center at the University of Virginia, one in every three Virginians now lives in Northern Virginia.
Indeed, in the elections of Mark Warner in 2001, Tim Kaine in 2005 and Jim Webb in 2006, the Northern Virginia vote proved to be the difference in sending these Democrats to key leadership positions.
Similar to other states, we may see urban areas dominate the electoral process, with a relatively small geographic portion of the state voting liberal but carrying the day because of the large population in that area. Maryland, a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans by more than two to one among registered voters, is mostly red when looked at on a map but the jurisdictions with the greatest vote, Baltimore City, Prince George's County and Montgomery County (altogether representing almost half of the state) push the state solidly blue.