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A History of Virginia in Votes

By Student Media Technology Manager Aram Zucker-Scharff

Virginia, as one of the original 13 colonies, has had a long history when it comes to presidential elections.

At its peak, 1792, Virginia controlled 15.9 percent of the nation’s total electoral votes. With a count of 25 electoral votes, Virginia had more than any other single state.

From the formation of the modern Democratic Party in 1828 until 1856, Virginia’s declining number of electoral votes went blue. Then in 1860, Virginia voted for John Bell of the Constitutional Union party. That would be the last time the state would vote for a US president until 1872. During that time, the commonwealth was embroiled in the Civil War.

After the war, the race was between Ulysses S. Grant, general, and Horace Greeley, editor of the New York Tribune. In 1872, Virginia, now with 11 electoral votes, down from a Pre-Civil War count of 15, fell to Grant, a Republican, who solidly beat out Greeley’s self-formed Liberal Republican Party.

For the next 13 elections, Virginia was once again a Democratic mainstay. However, in 1928, the Republican candidate from California, Herbert Hoover, won Virginia along with 58.2 percent of the popular vote. The state would fall from 12 to 11 electoral votes. It would be another 24 years before Virginia voted Republican again.

In 1952, Virginia, now back at 12 electoral votes, hitched itself to a winner, America’s star general Dwight “Ike” Eisenhower, a Republican. For the next 56 years, except for a flirtation that helped Democrat Lyndon “LBJ” Johnson win the 1964 election, Virginia fell solidly in the corner of the Republican Party.

Since 1992, Virginia has had 13 electoral votes, and in 7 out of the last 10 elections Virginia has been on the winning side.

In the 2004 presidential election, 54 percent of Virginia voted Republican, for George W. Bush. However, this election, it seems that nothing is certain. Three out of the four major polls list Barack Obama ahead in Virginia, but none by more then 5 percentage points, with the greatest estimate of Obama’s lead being 50 percent, in a Sept. 29th poll. NBC’s latest poll, from Sept. 25th, gives a 3 point lead to John McCain and none of the polls are definitive, with a significant enough percentage of swing voters to move the state to McCain’s column in all but the two Rasmussen polls.

This year may mark the end of a trend of almost a half-century of a red Virginia, but at this point, nothing is certain. As the race continues, one thing is sure, Virginia’s status as a battleground state in this election makes it a valuable prize for either side, be sure to expect plenty of courting.

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