CNN's breaking news moment came last night when they turned Virginia blue on its color-coded map. Virginia hasn't gone Democratic in a presidential race since 1964, but CNN has been reporting this week that Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is running strong in traditionally Republican states, including Florida and Virginia. A recent CNN/Time Magazine poll shows Obama ahead of Republican rival John McCain by ten points in Virginia (53 to 43 percent) and five in Florida (51 to 46 percent). In Georgia -- which Bush won by 17 points in 2004 -- McCain is up by only eight points (53 to 45 percent), reports the AFP.
The Brookings Institute released two reports last week detailing the demographic and political changes under way in battleground states in the Heartland and the New South, exploring how rapid demographic and geographic changes are shifting the political balance in ways that may have profound implications for this November's election. In their reports, Brookings explain how Ohio, Michigan, and Missouri remain white working class states, but their metropolitan areas have experienced an influx of Latinos and white college graduates, turning those regions blue. Migrants from New York and New Jersey have turned Virginia and Florida purple.
In the "The Political Geography of Virginia and Florida: Bookends of the New South," Brookings makes these findings about Virginia and Florida:
- Virginia and Florida have eligible voter populations that are rapidly changing. White working class voters are declining sharply while white college graduates are growing and minorities, especially Hispanics and Asians, are growing even faster. Other large metro areas in these states are also feeling significant effects from these changes and will contribute to potentially large demographically related political shifts in the next election.
- In Virginia, these trends will have their strongest impact in the fast-growing and Democratic-trending Northern Virginia area.
- In Florida, these trends will have their strongest impacts in the fast-growing I-4 Corridor (36 percent of the statewide vote), which, while Democratic trending, is still the key swing region in Florida, and in the Miami metro, largest in the state and home to 27 percent of the vote. The trends could also have big impacts in the South and North, where Democrats will be looking to reduce their 2004 deficits in important metros like Jacksonville (North) and Sarasota and Cape Coral (South).
- Two aspects of this growth are especially noteworthy. One is that their domestic migration gains came from outside the South. Both states lost migrants to other parts of the South, especially to North Carolina and Georgia. But even larger net migration gains came from other regions especially the Northeast. In fact, New York and New Jersey are the greatest contributors of all states to migration gains in both Virginia and Florida. Additional large contributors to Florida are Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Illinois-all states that have voted Democratic in previous elections.
- The second aspect of recent growth to these Southern states is the growth in their minority populations, including immigrant minorities, Hispanics and Asians-groups whose votes are being highly sought after. Yet Hispanics and Asians are less well represented in the eligible voter populations of these states than in their total populations. For example, in Virginia, Hispanics comprise 6.9 of the total 2007 population but only 2.6 percent of eligible voters. In Florida, the respective numbers are 21.8 percent and 13.3 percent.