Monday, November 5, 2018

The Fightin' 9th - Some Predictions

Horse
The Old Horse

So.  The Virginia 9th.  The Virginia 9th.  That's the district I live in, where incumbent and Republican Morgan Griffith, swept into office during the rise of Tea Party movement, is facing off against democrat Anthony Flaccavento.  
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The Fightin' 9th
For transparency's sake I need to say I have met both candidates.  Representative Griffith is a fellow graduate of Emory & Henry and a fraternity brother, while Anthony Flaccavento is a nice guy who shares a number of close friends with me as well.  Okay.  That's out of the way. 

So this is the article where I try to predict and explain what will happen tomorrow.  Let's do this. 

1. The 9th is not considered a swing district.  At all. 

I don't care what site you're looking at - RealClearPolitics, FiveThirtyEight, the Cook Political Report, you name it - sites basing their decisions on hard stats, informed socio-historical data, or tarot cards, nobody, and I mean nobody considers us a toss-up, or even a leaning district.  Every single informed political analyst is agreed on this point: the 9th will go for Griffith.  

That doesn't mean it is true, mind you, but that is a helluva' trend.  I definitely will say this - there hasn't been enough polling in the 9th to really judge things.  But I know the demography and, well, let's talk about that next.

2. Demography, demography, demography.

Here are the hard numbers I think are relevant to predicting the electoral outcome.  

The 9th is white.  Like really white - around 98% white, compared to around 77% nationally.  White people are far more likely to vote Republican than people who aren't white.  

The 9th is, relatively, old.  Its median age is 42.9 years old, around five years older than the national median age.  The older you are the more likely you are to vote Republican.

The 9th is rural.  Only about 20% of Americans live in a rural, rather than urban or suburban setting, but by some measures the 9th's population is around 60% rural.  The more rural you are the more likely you are to vote Republican.

The 9th voted strongly for Trump - in fact it has the town with the highest support for Trump in the United States, Grundy, and the Virginia county with the highest support for Trump, Bland.   Trump remains very popular among his base voters and they're likely to express their support by voting Republican. 

3.  The Trend

In 2010 the Democratic candidate received around 46% of the vote; in 2012 around 38%; there was no Democratic candidate in 2014, and in 2016 it was around 28%.  That is a hard trend to buck because it indicates evolving cultural preferences.  

4. Funding

Griffith has gotten far more donations than Flaccavento, in part because the latter made the decision to not accept donations from PACs and their ilk - a very real impediment.  More money means more adspace, simply put.   This one is a little more ambivalent though, because given Flaccavento's dependency almost exclusively on private donations he hasn't done half bad, so as an indicator it is decent.  

Conclusion

Flaccavento's chances hinge on every conceivable thing happening in his favor.  Older, rural voters don't turn out, perhaps alienated by Griffith's support of the Mountain Valley Pipeline and the argument he has neglected deep Southwest Virginia (west of the Bluefield-Tazewell-Richlands-Lebanon-Abingdon line).  Young voters, especially those in college (or at least college economies) in Montgomery, Washington, Tazewell, Roanoke, and Wise Counties and the cities of Blacksburg, Bristol, Radford, Salem, and Norton, have to turn out in droves.  Farmers have to identify with Flaccavento (who has pressed his agricultural credentials hard) and the pro-coal set have to decide to vote with the UMWA, not the Tea Party.  A significant number of Trump voters have to decide they don't like Trump, probably either disaffected white women or evangelical Christians, and that voting Democrat is a way of signaling their dissatisfaction.  

It isn't inconceivable all of these things could happen, or an adequate number of them to make the dance go differently than predicted, but I know this - it also isn't likely.  Griffith is almost definitely going to hold his seat, in my opinion, but stranger things have happened. 

What I definitely want to say is I am more than a little disappointed at the lack of polls in our district.  Not even Roanoke College, a respected source of high quality polls, which is in Salem, and thus the 9th, didn't even conduct one.   In the face of this comes my asterisk.  I call the race for Griffith, tentatively, but dammit, I don't have enough information.  

I guess we'll see tomorrow, kids.  I guess we'll see tomorrow. 

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