Virginia presents an interesting case since court-ordered redistricting changed the Third and Fourth Districts dramatically. The current House delegation favors the GOP 8-3, but with the new alignment that could change. Previously, four districts had voted for Obama, but one was represented by a Republican. That was the 4th District represented by Randy Forbes who decided to switch districts to the 2nd where fellow Republican Scott Rigell was retiring. We will see the same dynamics in Florida which also had court-ordered redistricting for 2016.
Of the 11 districts, four are competitive this year either due to redistricting, historical competitiveness, or incumbent retirements. The following Republicans are safe: Rob Wittman in the 1st, Bob Goodlatte in the 6th, Dave Brat in the 7th and Morgan Griffin in the 9th. All three Democrats are safe: Bobby Scott in the 3rd, Don Beyer in the 8th, and Gerald Connolly in the 11th who is running unopposed.
The Second, from which Rigell is retiring, is nominally Republican down ballot, but has voted for Obama in 2012. Randy Forbes switched to this district from the redrawn Fourth, but lost the primary bid against state delegate Scott Taylor. Shaun Brown won the Democratic bid and was unopposed in the primary. This should be a very close race and if fundraising is any indication, the advantage has to go to Taylor at this point.
With Forbes out in the 4th and with the reconfiguration, Democrats hope this seat can be picked up. Their candidate is state senator Don McEachin while the GOP will field Henrico County sheriff Mike Wade. Most pundits now rate this race safely Democratic and this writer would have to agree. Hence, the GOP loses a seat here.
The Fifth is considered nominally competitive only because Republican incumbent Robert Hurt is retiring. Tom Garrett, a state senator, won the GOP primary while his Democratic opponent, Jane Dittmar ran unopposed in her party’s primary. This is a sleeper race that could be closer than most Republican operatives would like. To the GOP’s advantage, the 5th runs through the central portion of the state and is sufficiently removed from the more liberal DC suburbs/environs. Dittmar has been the better fundraiser thus far.
The final Republican-held competitive district is the 10th represented by Barbara Comstock. She is a freshman and has a Democratic target on her back. Her opponent- real estate executive LuAnn Bennett- ran unopposed in her primary- and has the backing of the DCCC and several outside groups. The 10th lies in the northern part of the state along the Maryland border and stretches into counties surrounding DC. Thus far, the dynamic has been to paint Comstock as a Trump dupe. This is an expensive race given the media market and if Comstock prevails, it will be close.
In presidential politics, it hurts some to say this but Virginia is a lost cause for the GOP this year. Prior to the announcement that Tim Kaine of Virginia would be Clinton’s running mate this year, Clinton already was leading in the polls in this state by over 8 points. Since then, it has increased to over 9. Thus the presence of Tim Kaine on the ticket has done very little for Clinton’s chances in Virginia which were already good.
In fact, they are so good that Clinton has pulled back some advertisements in the state in the fall and diverted that money elsewhere. It is a fairly smart move since the DC media market is one of the most expensive in the country. I am predicting a Clinton victory here on the order of 6-9 points.
This writer fully expects the GOP to lose one seat in the House delegation come Election Day, but would not be surprised if they lose the two. The only question would be which would be the second district? Working on a worst-case scenario, pessimistic model (in the hopes of being pleasantly surprised), at this point I am predicting a two-seat loss for the GOP. The importance of Trump at the top of the ticket has the potential to take down a third, but only district configuration may prevent that. A 3-seat loss in Virginia would be an electoral debacle and make the delegation 6-5 in favor of the Democrats.
After this entry, the electoral vote count now stands at 159-128 in favor of Clinton. With no senatorial race, the GOP advantage remains 53-47 while a 2-seat loss for the GOP results in a 239-196 advantage in the House.