Turnout higher than expected
From NBC's Chuck Todd
Judging by partial returns in the Virginia Democratic primary in just about every major area of the state, we've learned a few things.
THE VIRGINIA GOVERNOR'S RACE
Right now, with just under 70% reporting, Creigh Deeds is nearly out-polling Terry McAuliffe and Brian Moran combined. And at 8:05pm, AP called it for Deeds. It's a blowout. Wow... Here are some quick notes from watching the returns
1) Creigh Deeds would have to end up under-performing in Fairfax county dramatically for this race to close at all, as the 11th Congressional District is the only district where there are significant returns uncounted.
2) ex-DNC Chair Terry McAuliffe's advantage with African-American voters (see the 3rd District) doesn't seem to be nearly enough for him to catch up to Deeds. Realize this: McAuliffe spent at least $12 million to Deeds' $4.5 million...
3). Deeds is on track to carry Northern Virginia. So far, in the 8th District, where ex-House Dem leader Brian Moran's brother is the Congressman, Deeds is running neck-and-neck with Moran. If Deeds breaks even in the 8th and wins the 11th, then it's likely Deeds will win Northern Virginia against the two candidates who actually LIVE in Northern Virginia. Who says newspapers are dead; the Washington Post is something else.
4) Turnout for this primary is slightly higher than some predicted. It appears it's on pace for something over 200,000, judging by the partial returns in this race vs. what, for instance, the turnout Jim Webb's 2006 Dem primary attracted. In that '06 race, a little over 150K voters turned out. But early on, McAuliffe had bragged that the primary would attract 400K voters; that's not gonna happen; not by a long shot. But Democrats should be relieved that $20 million in combined spending by the three Dems attracts the highest turnout for any state Dem primary (if you don't count the presidential).
BTW, the Virginia State Board of Elections handles returns better than any state in the union. It's fantastic and fast.
UPDATE (General Election): Deeds now faces Republican Bob McDonnell, a rematch of the 2005 Atty Gen race in Virginia. McDonnell beat Deeds by a handful of votes after an extended recount. On paper, Deeds seems to be well positioned to over-perform in the non-Northern Virginia parts of the state against McDonnell. That said, Deeds has a few issues to deal with:
1) raise money; McDonnell has proven to be a good fundraiser and hasn't had to fight in a competitive primary.
2) Deeds has to figure out how to excite the black vote. Richmond Mayor Doug Wilder may make Deeds' political life uncomfortable. It means Deeds may be leaning on Pres. Obama more so than he wants to early on in this race.
3) Deeds needs to develop a killer instinct. Many Democrats I talked to over the last week believe the reason Deeds lost to McDonnell the first time is that he was hesitant to go negative. Deeds showed some fire in this Dem primary but let's be realistic, Moran and the Washington Post did much of Deeds' dirty work. Deeds can't assume the media will do his attacking for him in a general.
4) We'll get an idea of what kind of campaign operations McDonnell and Deeds have in the next month. I think the first month of a general election campaign is more important than folks realize; it's when the tone is set and when you find out just how prepared the nominees are for the big time once October rolls around. Deeds is probably broke; let's see if McDonnell tries to take advantage of that fact.
5) all in all, this is going to be a very competitive general election; a swing state pitting two solid candidates.