We’ve been calling attention to the dramatic realignment of the coalfields from being a Democratic stronghold to a Republican stronghold. Here’s some more data, courtesy of the Virginia Public Access Project, a non-profit, non-partisan group that tracks Virginia elections.
Republicans ran stronger in 2012 than in 2008 in almost every locality in Virginia — although, obviously, not strong enough for Mitt Romney to carry the state.
Which localities showed the strongest Republican increase (or, conversely, the biggest decline in Democratic support)? All but one were in the coalfields.
This chart is measured in terms of the drop-off in the Democratic vote from 2008 to 2012.
Lee County -7.86%
Buena Vista -9.62%
Wise County -10.81%
Tazewell County -12.61%
Russell County -12.75%
Dickenson County -13.57%
Buchanan County -14.84%
Of note: The only non-coalfield locality on this list is Buena Vista, another former Democratic stronghold. One has to wonder how much of this flip is due to the general realignment of white, working-class votes from Democrats to Republicans — and how much is due to the presence of Southern Virginia University, a Morman-affiliated school, in that city?
And the bigger question, of course, is: Is this realignment permanent? Are the coalfieds now a de facto Republican stronghold? Or is this an abberration due to Obama, either a combination of his cosmopolitian “otherness” and his alleged “war on coal”? In other words, would a future Democratic candidate be able to make more in-roads in the coalfields and reclaim some of those votes?