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Black voters were a big reason McAuliffe won in Virginia

11/7/2013, 9:34 a.m.
McAuliffe won black voters by a 90-8 percent margin, a similar spread to the 93-6 percent President Barack Obama ran ...
McAuliffe gets a hug from a supporter on Nov. 5

By DOMENICO MONTANARO

Democrat Terry McAuliffe lost white voters to Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli by 20 points in the Virginia governor’s race, 56-36 percent.

But McAuliffe still won the election by 3 points, 48-45 percent. How is that possible when more than seven-in-10 (72 percent) of Virginia voters Tuesday were white?

Simple: Black voters.

McAuliffe won black voters by a 90-8 percent margin, a similar spread to the 93-6 percent President Barack Obama ran up in the 2012 presidential election in the Old Dominion.

Black voters also voted at a similar clip to the 2012 election. They made up 20 percent of voters, or one of every five people who went to the polls. That’s exactly the percentage of the electorate black voters made up for Obama in 2012 in Virginia.

What’s more, for all the discussion of women, the gender gap, and the millions of dollars in ads McAuliffe ran in Northern Virginia targeting women on the issue of abortion, it was really black women specifically that fueled that gap.

McAuliffe won women overall by a 51-42 percent margin. But he lost white women by 16 points (54-38 percent) and won black women by an astonishing 91-7 percent spread. They made up 11 percent of all Virginia voters. Black men voted at a similar margin as women, 90-9 percent, and made up a similar percentage of the electorate, 9 percent.

These margins resemble what black voters delivered for the Democratic gubernatorial candidate in the 2009 Virginia race, but turnout was stronger, up 4 points.

Black voters turned out at exactly the percentage they make up of the overall population. But other key minority groups underperformed. Even though Latinos, who have grown four-fold since 1990 in Virginia, make up 8 percent of the population, they were just 4 percent of the electorate Tuesday, down from 5 percent in 2012. Asians make up 6 percent of the population, but were just 1 percent of Tuesday’s voters, down from 3 percent in 2012.

So why did black voters come out in the numbers they did? There are several possible explanations, but it starts with policy, especially Cuccinelli’s support for voter ID laws. Cuccinelli also opposed the president’s health-care law, entertained the notion that Obama won the presidential election because of voter fraud, questioned where Obama was born. All that made for Obama's base being fired up to defend their president. On top of all that, McAuliffe hired many of the old Obama campaign hands, who were able to specifically target black voters.

Voter ID

Black voters across the country have felt under siege by voter identification requirements, pushed by Republicans in the states. Cuccinelli supports those laws, including Virginia’s, and McAuliffe’s campaign made sure black voters knew about that.

“Registration, if you’re willing to lie, anybody can walk in and register to vote,” Cuccinelli told a conservative radio host a week after the 2012 election. “Yeah, I’m Mickey Mouse. Put me on the rolls. Here’s the address. Sure, I’m a citizen. It is so simple. And then you’ve got voter identification and at least [in Virginia] you’ve got to show something.”