In today’s Wonkblog, Ezra Klein writes that despite Terry McAuliffe’s victory in yesterday’s Virginia gubernatorial election, the exit polls point to a “demographic drift that could help Republicans next year.”
“A Republican looking at these numbers should feel disappointed by last night’s election but hopeful about next year’s,” Klein writes.
Central to his argument is the fact that seniors represented 18 percent of Virginia’s 2013 electorate — up 4 percent from 2012 — and can therefore be expected to make up a larger share of next year’s midterm electorate. While we accept that demographic trends in odd-year elections point to potential shifts in the off-year body of voters, we take issue with the idea — taken as fact by most pundits — that a high vote share among seniors is necessarily bad news for Democrats.
More important than the vote share among seniors was the vote choice among seniors last night. At Democracy Corps, we have been closely examining voting trends among seniors in our polls and noting that they are increasingly supporting Democrats. But this is not a poll. This is an actual election that confirms what we have been seeing in our data: Something is, in fact, happening among seniors.
In 2009, seniors voted for Republican Bob McDonnell by a 20-point margin, 40 percent to 60 percent. Four years later, Democrat Terry McAuliffe cut that margin by three quarters (down to just +6 for Ken Cuccinelli).
So, while we accept Ezra Klein’s analysis that we should pay attention to the demographic trends apparent in last night’s election, we reject that these trends point to potentially bad things for Democrats in 2014. A strong turnout among seniors may, in fact, be a good thing for Democrats next year.