News that Democratic National Committee Chairman and former Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine will likely face off against former Republican Sen. George Allen for Virginia’s open Senate seat next year underscores how important the state will be for Democrats in 2012, writes the National Journal’s Josh Kraushaar.Kraushaar notes that Virginia is now home to a new Democratic coalition of college-educated whites, youth, Hispanics and African Americans and does some back-of-the-napkin electoral maths to show how these voters are fast replacing the party’s traditional blue-collar base:
“Traditionally, the electorally rich Rust Belt would be the starting point for any Democratic presidential candidate facing a competitive race. Ohio has backed the winning candidate in the past 12 elections. But with unemployment still painfully high, Obama faces a challenge to match his 2008 performance in the Midwest. Blue-collar white voters predominate in the region, and he has struggled to win them over….
…But the president has another path to reelection that would allow him to mitigate possible losses in the Rust Belt.
Consider these new Democratic majority-makers: Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Virginia. If Obama carries them, he could lose Ohio, Florida, New Hampshire, and Wisconsin and still win reelection.
Even in 2010, a dismal year for Democrats, the party’s Senate nominees won hotly contested elections in these battlegrounds, thanks to higher-than-expected support from Hispanics and college-educated white voters…
Democrats suffered setbacks in Virginia for numerous reasons, but most pressing to Obama was the loss of affluent white-collar voters. They cast ballots for Obama in 2008 but went for GOP Gov. Bob McDonnell one year later. Obama’s recent support for an across-the-board extension of tax cuts, disengagement from the heated labour fight in Wisconsin, and conciliatory appeals for education reform are a direct appeal to this constituency.”