Virginia is a new swing state. In the last 40 years, going back to 1972 it has only gone blue once -- and that was in 2008. Prior to Barack Obama's victory in the commonwealth, no Democratic presidential candidate had won Virginia since Lyndon Johnson in 1964.
The state's changing demographics -- an increase in the minority population, plus the increase in young white college graduates living in the state -- has contributed to the state becoming more friendly to Democrats in recent years. Plus, the state's low unemployment rate -- 5.9 percent in September -- helps boost Obama and the Democrats.
Democrats had a good year in Virginia in 2008. In addition to Obama's victory, the state also elected a second Democratic senator, Mark Warner. But Republicans have made gains since then. The GOP took back the governor's mansion in 2009 when Bob McDonnell was elected governor, and in the 2010 midterms they picked up three Democratically held House seats in the 2nd, 5th and 9th congressional districts.
One of the major employers in the state is the defense industry, and federal dollars are key to Virginia's economic health. The stimulus is certainly one of the reasons for Virginia's lower than average unemployment rate, a selling point for Obama.
But this means that the threat of sequestration resonates very heavily in the state, in a way that it arguably does not anywhere else in the country -- and although Congress may bear the brunt of the blame for the fact that sequestration is a real threat, it has come to pass under the Obama administration and arguably hurts him more than it does his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney.
Below are several key statistics about Virginia.
CURRENT UNEMPLOYMENT RATE: 5.9 percent in September 2012.
UNEMPLOYMENT TREND SINCE OBAMA TOOK OFFICE: When Obama took office in January 2009, the unemployment rate was 5.8 percent and while it climbed up for the first year of his term -- peaking at 7.3 percent in January 2010 -- the state was always somewhat shielded from the recession because of the large number of government jobs. The unemployment rate has been on a downward trend since January 2010.
MEDIAN HOUSEHOLD INCOME
POLITICAL PARTY REGISTRATION: Virginia doesn't have party registration in its voter registration process.
STATEWIDE POPULATION (As of 2011): 8,096,604.
White: 71.3 percent
Black: 19.8 percent (noticeably higher than national which is 13.1percent)
Asian: 5.8 percent
Hispanic: 8.2 percent
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