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270 Electoral Votes Needed to Win the White House

Click chart above to enlarge, and click here to create your own electoral chart via the interactive 270 to Win website.

Even Though The National Popular Vote Doesn't Matter

Donald Trump   62,984,825 votes   46.4%
Hillary Clinton   65,853,516 votes   48.5%

Is Virginia Becoming a Modern Bellwether State?

According to the Washington Post, "Voters in Virginia have picked the winning candidate in eight [out of the eleven most recent presidential] election cycles since 1972."  Virginia barely missed the mark in 1976 (Virginians voted for Gerald Ford over Jimmy Carter by a 1% margin), in 1992 (George H.W. Bush over Bill Clinton by 4%) and 1996 (Bob Dole over Bill Clinton by 2%).  Did you know that a bellwether is a castrated ram with a bell tied around its neck?  Guess that's the cost of being a leading indicator in politics.

A Cautionary Note Regarding Polling Data

Larry Sabato, the founder and director of the non-profit and non-partisan University of Virginia Center for Politics, has the following insight about political polls:

"[S]hort-term swings in candidate preference are caused mainly if not exclusively by variability in partisan response rates.  Even small changes in response rates among Democrats and Republicans can produce sizable shifts in candidate support, given the very low overall response rates in most polls.  In our view, it is much more fruitful to focus on the electoral fundamentals and fixed elements of politics that predetermine most votes, especially partisanship, demographics, and strong forces shaping the political landscape. Polarization in this hyper-partisan era means that practically nine of 10 voters are committed, and the unknown is whether they can be motivated to cast a ballot.  Presidential job approval, the state of the economy, war and peace, and a few other items reinforce partisanship and turnout, and influence the few truly swingable votes among hard independents."

Good to know, but statewide polls provide ballpark guidance on the final allocation of electoral votes in the run-up to elections, and help identify changes (direction and scope) in local voter sentiment over time.  This is especially important in battleground states like Virginia.  Moreover, political parties, candidates, pundits and even folks like Mr. Sabato rely on solid polling data, which affects their and our attitudes, conclusions and behavior from time to time.

Recent Virginia Polling Data

Links to Complete Polling Data

Please click or tap here to see a complete list of links to the underlying polling data summarized in the chart above.

2016 Virginia Primary Election Results

On March 1, 2016, known as Super Tuesday, the two major political parties in America held primary elections and caucuses in a number of states and territories, including Virginia, to select pledged delegates to represent voters at the parties' respective national conventions to be held on July 18-21 in Cleveland, Ohio for the Republicans and on July 25-28 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the Democrats.  At each of these conventions, delegates will select their party's nominee to run in the 58th quadrennial U.S. presidential election to be held on November 8, 2016.

In Virginia's Republican primary, businessman and political newcomer Donald Trump received the most votes cast for a single candidate statewide (nearly 35%), and U.S. Senator from Florida Marco Rubio received the largest number of votes cast in Alexandria (nearly 47%). 

On the Democratic side, former First Lady, U.S. Senator from New York, and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton received the most votes cast both statewide (more than 64%) and in Alexandria (nearly 70%).

The chart below provides more detailed election results as of March 2, 2016 (please note that several candidates whose names appear on the chart suspended their campaigns before the primary election was held but after ballots had been prepared and distributed).

Republican Rebels

One of the more surprising devolutions in this year's presidential election is the extreme virulence (literally, the degree of damage caused by a microbe to its host), anger and dissatisfaction directed by voters toward candidates of their own political parties.  Given the manner of our country's founding (arising out of side-choosing and revolution), and the abiding unrest of our Civil War (also forged in side-choosing and insurrection), it is not surprising that our country's politics are deeply felt and often divisive. 

Painful?  Yes, but also vital to our continuous self-assessment, growth and periodic reimagining as a society.  Nonetheless, the hyper-trending persistence this past year of anti-candidate hashtags (for example, #neverTrump, #neverHillary, #neverCruz), on both social and legacy media, is shocking because it highlights how much of the current national political conversation is being driven by what we oppose instead of what we favor.

While no group is immune, this headfirst dive to the bottom has reached a nadir for Republicans, as a growing number of party elders and influencers have publicly rejected Donald Trump's candidacy.  Because this seems to be one step beyond -- driven perhaps by jealousy, rivalry, venge-taking, fear, realpolitik, raw survival instinct or prudence -- here is a list of the more notable Republican Trumpposition declared to date:

  • George H.W. Bush, 41st U.S. President, who told Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, the daughter of Robert F. Kennedy and former lieutenant governor of the State of Maryland, at a public event that he is voting for Mrs. Clinton
  • Barbara Bush
  • George W. Bush, 43rd U.S. President
  • John Kasich, Ohio Governor and presidential candidate (2016)
  • Jeb Bush, former Florida Governor and presidential candidate (2016)
  • Mitt Romney, former Massachusetts Governor and Republican presidential nominee (2012)
  • Lindsey Graham, U.S. Senator (South Carolina) and presidential candidate (2016 and 2012)
  • Ted Cruz, U.S. Senator (Texas) and presidential candidate (2016 and 2020)
  • Ron Paul, former U.S. Congressman (Texas 14th and 22nd) and presidential candidate (1988, 2008 and 2012)
  • Larry Hogan, Maryland Governor
  • Charlie Baker, Massachusetts Governor
  • Christine Todd Whitman, former New Jersey Governor and U.S. EPA Administrator (Bush 43)
  • George Pataki, former New York Governor and presidential candidate (2016), who said "Donald Trump would drive the Republicans off a cliff if he's our nominee"
  • Tom Ridge, former Pennsylvania Governor and first U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security (Bush 43)
  • Gary Johnson, former New Mexico Governor, and William Weld, former Massachusetts Governor, who are the Libertarian Party's 2016 nominees for President and Vice President
  • Mark Kirk, U.S. Senator (Illinois), who rescinded an earlier endorsement of Mr. Trump
  • Ben Sasse, U.S. Senator (Nebraska)
  • Mark Sanford, U.S. Senator (South Carolina)
  • Susan Collins, U.S. Senator (Maine)
  • Jeff Flake, U.S. Senator (Arizona)
  • Mel Martinez, former U.S. Senator (Florida)
  • Norm Coleman, former U.S. Senator (Minnesota)
  • Larry Pressler, former U.S. Senator and Congressman (North Dakota), who has endorsed Hillary Clinton
  • William Cohen, former U.S. Senator (Maine), Congressman (Maine 2nd) and U.S. Secretary of Defense (Clinton) (Maine splits its electoral votes and Mrs. Clinton leads the statewide popular vote but Mr. Trump leads the popular vote in the state's 2nd Congressional District)
  • John Warner, former U.S. Senator (Virginia), Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and Secretary of the Navy, who says he is voting for the Democratic ticket, and who campaigned alongside Mr. Kaine on September 28, 2016 at the Charles Houston Community Center a few blocks from Watergate
  • Gordon Humphrey, former U.S. Senator (New Hampshire), who called Mr. Trump "a sociopath, without a conscience"
  • Scott Rigell, U.S. Congressman (Virginia 2nd), who has endorsed Mr. Johnson
  • Reid Ribble, U.S. Congressman (Wisconin 8th)
  • Richard Hanna, U.S. Congressman (New York 22nd)
  • Carlos Curbelo, U.S. Congressman (Florida 26th)
  • Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, U.S. Congresswoman (Florida 27th), first Cuban-American and Latina elected to Congress, dean of the Florida delegation in the U.S. House, former Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee
  • Bob Dold, U.S. Congressman (Illinois 10th)
  • Charlie Dent, U.S. Congressman (Pennsylvania 15th) and current chairman of the House Ethics Committee
  • Adam Kinzinger, U.S. Congressman (Illinois 16th and 11th)
  • J.C. Watts, former U.S. Congressman (Oklahoma 4th) and Chairman of the House Republican Conference
  • Vin Weber, former U.S. Congressman (Minnesota 2nd and 6th) who helped Newt Gingrich win Republican control of the U.S. House
  • Chris Shays, former U.S. Congressman (Connecticut 4th), who has endorsed Mrs. Clinton
  • Joe Scarborough, former U.S. Congressman (Florida 1st), and co-host of MSNBC's Morning Joe political program, who wrote in an op-ed piece for the Washington Post that a "bloody line has been crossed that cannot be ignored" and the "GOP must dump Trump"
  • Colin Powell, former U.S. Secretary of State (Bush 43), whose hacked emails reveal that he thinks Mr. Trump is a "national disgrace" and "international pariah" and who later stated that he was voting for Mrs. Clinton
  • Henry Paulson, former U.S. Treasury Secretary (Bush 43)
  • Brent Scowcroft, former U.S. National Security Adviser (Ford and Bush 41), who has endorsed Mrs. Clinton
  • George Shultz, former U.S. Secretary of State (Reagan), and former U.S. Secretary of Labor and Treasury (Reagan)
  • Richard Armitage, former Deputy U.S. Secretary of State (Bush 43) and Assistant U.S. Secretary of Defense (Bush 41 and Reagan)
  • Paul Wolfowitz, former U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense (Bush 43) and former President of the World Bank (Bush 43), a neocon thought leader who has called Mr. Trump a security risk to the U.S.
  • Robert Zoellick, former U.S. Trade Representative and U.S. Deputy Secretary of State (Bush 41) and former President of the World Bank (Bush 43), who said Mr. Trump was a dangerous man
  • Michael Morell, former Director of the CIA, who has endorsed Mrs. Clinton
  • Michael Chertoff, former U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security (Bush 43)
  • Michael Hayden, retired 4-star general who led the CIA and NSA
  • John Negroponte, former DNI, U.N. Ambassador and Ambassador to Iraq (Bush 43), a neocon who has endorsed Mrs. Clinton
  • William Ruckelshaus, former Administrator of the EPA and Acting Director of the FBI (Nixon), who has endorsed Mrs. Clinton
  • William Reilly, former Administrator of the EPA (Bush 41), who has endorsed Mrs. Clinton
  • Carlos Gutierrez, former U.S. Secretary of Commerce (Bush 43), who has endorsed Mrs. Clinton
  • Louis Wade Sullivan, former U.S. Secretary of HHS (Bush 41), who has endorsed Mrs. Clinton
  • Michael Bloomberg, former Mayor of New York, who spoke at the Democratic National Convention
  • Ken Mehlman, former Chairman of the Republican National Committee (Bush 43)
  • Marc Racicot, former Chairman of the RNC (Bush 43) and former Montana Governor
  • Robert Kagan, respected foreign policy adviser, historian and writer, who has endorsed Mrs. Clinton, a fellow "neocon"
  • George Will, syndicated columnist and political pundit who announced that he was actually leaving the GOP
  • Bill Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard
  • Glenn Beck, conservative TV and radio host
  • Meg Whitman, former CEO of Hewlett-Packard and unsuccessful candidate for Governor of California
  • 50 former senior Republican national security officials who signed a joint letter stating that Mr. Trump "is not qualifed to be President" and if elected "would be the most reckless President in American history"
  • More than 70 former Republican office-holders and senior party leaders who signed an open letter to RNC Chairman Reince Priebus urging him to stop financing Donald Trump's campaign and instead support other Republican office-seekers

The list above excludes Republicans who have merely withheld public support from Mr. Trump, major Republican donors who have announced that they are sending sizable checks to Mrs. Clinton's campaign, and the growing number of Republicans who continue to organize "Dump Trump" efforts even after the Republican National Convention has ended.  The list notably excludes Jeb Bush's 40-year-old eldest son, Texas land commissioner George Prescott Bush, who has aspirations for higher elected office, spurned his family, and publicly backed Mr. Trump.

It also does not include the 2,000 students and alumni of the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business who published an open letter to Mr. Trump, a graduate who cites the school as a source of his business acumen, stating that he does not represent them or their values.  President Ronald Reagan's oldest son, Michael Reagan, has stated that his father would not support Mr. Trump for President if he were alive today because the two men are complete opposites.

By the way, Sarah Palin -- the former part-term Governor of Alaska, the 2008 GOP Vice Presidential nominee selected by U.S. Senator John McCain from Arizona, and conservative political power broker -- mocks all these folks and calls them RATs, her acronym for Republicans Against Trump.  Nice.

On October 7, 2016, just two days before the second presidential debate in St. Louis, the Washington Post revealed the existence of a video recording filmed by the NBC Entertainment program Access Hollywood in 2005 of Mr. Trump making controversial comments about women.  Immediately following the widespread public release and viewing of this video, over 180 prominant Republicans disavowed Mr. Trump and/or his candidacy.  Too many to list here, so I provide a link to a USA Today article with details.  Most major news outlets have published similar lists available via a quick Internet search.  Also, click here to see a nifty research tool provided by USA Today, which tracks who does and does not support Mr. Trump.

Comedy and Politics

Comedy has always been interwined with Amercian politics.  Here are some of my favorite examples from this year's party conventions:

Tony Award-winning actress and singer Laura Benanti spoofs Melania Trump on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

SNL Weekend Update at the RNC with hosts Colin Jost and Michael Che on MSNBC (with a special appearance by Ghostbuster Kate McKinnon, who won a September 2016 Emmy Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for her work on SNL).

SNL Weekend Update at the DNC with hosts Colin Jost and Michael Che on MSNBC.

Bad Lip Reading's take on the DNC.

 

 

2016 Virginia General Election Results

2016 Virginia General Election

The Commonwealth of Virginia, along with every other state in the country and the District of Columbia, will be holding a general election on November 8, 2016. Alexandria residents will be casting ballots on the following items:

U.S. President and Vice President
Election of the President and Vice President of the United States.  As you know from your high school civics classes, Americans technically elect a slate of electors who are pledged to vote for specific candidates for these offices at the quadrennial meeting of the Electoral College to be held on Monday, December 19, 2016. Virginia offers 13 electoral votes and, as the chart to the left shows, it takes 270 electoral votes to win the White House.

U.S. House of Representatives
Election of a Member of Congress representing Virginia's 8th Congressional District.

Virginia Constitution
Vote on two proposed amendments to the Virginia Constitution.  One amendment would make Virginia a right-to-work state, and the other amendment would allow localities to grant exemptions from real property taxes on primary residences owned by surviving spouses of first responders killed in the line of duty who do not remarry. Click here to read the text and an explanation of the two proposed state constitutional amendments.

2016 General Election Information

Register to Vote

The last day to register to vote for the November general election is Monday, October 17, 2016. Click here to register to vote or update your existing state voter registration information at the Virginia Department of Elections' website.

Absentee Ballots

The deadline to request an absentee ballot be sent to you by mail for the November general election is 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday, November 1, 2016.  The deadline to return an an absentee ballot sent to you by mail, whether returned in person or by mail, is 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, November 8, 2016.  Click here to access the Virginia Absentee Ballot Application Form and Instructions.

In-Person Absentee Voting

As an alternative to voting by absentee ballot by mail, you can vote by in-person absentee voting at the City of Alexandria Office of Voter Registration and Elections, located 8 blocks from Watergate at 132 North Royal Street, Suite 100, Alexandria, Virginia 22314.  In-person absentee voting begins at 8:00 a.m. on Friday, September 23, 2016, and ends at 5:00 p.m. on Saturday, November 5, 2016.  If you cannot vote in person at the polling place on election day, in-person absentee voting at the local election office is the easiest and best option.

Election Day Voting Precinct

Our election day polling location is the Ladrey Senior Building, located three blocks from Watergate at 300 Wythe Street, Alexandria, Virginia 22314, which will be open for voting from 6:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, November 8, 2016.  Please note that lines tend to be quite long in the mornings and evenings in presidential election years.

Sample Ballot

Click here to see a specimen 2016 general election ballot for Alexandrians.

Presidential and Vice Presidential Candidates in the 2016 General Election

Here are the candidates running for national office in 2016:

Republican Party

The Republican Party held its national convention on July 18-21, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio.  New York-based businessman, reality television host and first-time office-seeker Donald Trump was selected by delegates as the Republican Party nominee for President.  Mr. Trump defeated 16 other declared Republican candidates during the primary elections.  The final delegate count was 1,543 for Mr. Trump, 559 for U.S. Senator Ted Cruz from Texas, 165 for U.S. Senator Marco Rubio from Florida, and 161 for Ohio Governor John Kasich.

Mr. Trump selected former 6-term U.S. Congressman and current first-term Indiana Governor Mike Pence as his Vice Presidential running mate.  Mr. Pence is a staunch social and religious conservative, but as he often puts it, "I'm a conservative but not angry about it."

The Trump campaign theme is "Make America Great Again."

Democratic Party

The Democractic Party held its national convention on July 25-28, 2016 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  Former First Lady, U.S. Senator from New York, and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was elected as the Democratic Party nominee for President, and former Virginia Governor and current first-term U.S. Senator Tim Kaine was chosen as her Vice Presidential running mate. 

The final delegate tally was 2,838 for Mrs. Clinton, 1,843 for second-term U.S. Senator from Vermont Bernie Sanders, and 55 abstentions.  A third candidate for this year's Democratic Party nomination, fomer two-term Maryland governor Martin O'Malley, suspended his campaign efforts before winning any convention delegates. 

Mrs. Clinton has several campaign slogans, including "Hillary For America," "Fighting For Us," "I'm With Her" and "Stronger Together."

Libertarian Party

The Libertarian Party held its national convention on May 27-30, 2016 at the Rosen Centre Hotel & Resort in Orlando, Florida.  Former two-term Republican New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson is again the Libertarian Party's nominee for President (as he was in 2012), and former two-term Republican Massachusetts Governor William Weld is the party's nominee for Vice President.  Mr. Johnson is a social progressive and fiscal conservative. 

For the moment, the primary goal of Messrs. Johnson and Weld is to obtain at least 15 percent public support in national political polls so that they can participate in the televised presidential and vice presidential candidate debates (see discussion on the presidential debates below).  As of early fall, they are polling just above the single digits nationally.  Either way, they are "Working Together For a Better America" and claim that they will be on the ballot in all 50 states and the District of Columbia in November. 

On September 14, 2016, Joseph McQuaid, publisher of the New Hampshire Union Leader, the largest and arguably most influential daily newspaper in the libertarian-leaning state, formally endorsed Mr. Johnson for President.  This endorsement is an unusual departure from the Manchester-based paper's more than 100 years of unbroken support for Republican presidential nominees.  On November 28, 2015, the paper officially declared its support for New Jersey Governor Chris Christie in the Granite State's first-in-the-nation Republican primary.

In a signed editorial, Mr. McQuaid called Mr. Trump "a liar, a bully, a buffoon" who "denigrates any individual or group that displeases him" and changes "political views almost as often as he has changed wives."  He also wrote that Mrs. Clinton is "a selfish, self-centered, sanctimonious prig" and a "prime example" of the oft-vilified status quo.  Apparently, Mr. McQuaid is not troubled by Mr. Johnson's lack of foreign policy, national security and military experience.  Indeed, Mr. McQuaid's endorsement arrived less than a week after Mr. Johnson gamely asked "What is Aleppo?" in response to a mainstream journalist's straight-forward question on MSNBC's Morning Joe show on how he would handle the situation there.

Not for nothing, Aleppo is a very old trading city thought to have been founded more than 8,000 years ago and continuously inhabited for at least the past 4,000 years.  The city sits atop a plateau located mid-way between the Mediterrean Sea to the west and the Euphrates River to the east, and stands astride critical crossroads of ancient trade routes, including the Silk Road, that traversed Mesopotamia and Asia.  Aleppo was the third largest city in the Ottoman Empire after Constantinople and Cairo, and was the largest city in modern Syria (over 2 million inhabitants, about the size of Houston) before the start of that country's civil war in 2012, which grew out of the Arab Spring movement the year before.  Recent reporting estimates that the population of Aleppo is now down to around 250,000 to 300,000 people.

Aleppo is currently engulfed by horrific fighting between and among several heavily armed forces, including those loyal to or backed by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, his ally Russia, Syrian opposition groups such as the Free Syrian Army, the Islamic State (also known as ISIL, ISIS and Daesh) and other Salafi jihadist militants, Hezbollah and other radical Shiite militants, the al-Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (formerly known as the al-Nusra Front) and other radical Sunni militants, YPG/Popular Protection Units and other ethnic Kurdish forces operating in northern Syria, neighboring Turkey, or the United States and its coalition partners active in the region.  The battle has produced an overwhelming number of war refugees and created a worldwide humanitarian crisis with few effective responses.  The situation has been the focus of intense negotiations between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, and will be of grave concern for the next President of the United States.

In response to the Union Leader's endorsement of Mr. Johnson, Mr. Trump called Mr. McQuaid a "lowlife" and predicted that the newspaper wouldn't be in business two years hence.

Mr. Johnson should definitely avoid the cabal at MSNBC.  At a town hall forum held at the University of New Hampshire in Durham on September 29, 2016, journalist Chris Matthews, host of Hardball, asked Mr. Johnson to name his "favorite foreign leader. . . .  One foreign leader that you respect and look up to. . . .  Anywhere, any continent.  Canada, Mexico Europe, over there, Asia, South America, Africa.  Name a foreign leader that you respect."  For nearly a minute, Mr. Johnson drew a blank, eventually stating, "I guess I'm having an Aleppo moment."  Unfortunately, we are too.

Green Party

The Green Party held its national convention on August 4-7 at the University of Houston in Houston, Texas (perhaps not the best scheduling choice since the Opening Ceremony of the 31st Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil took place on August 5th).  Jill Stein, a physician-turned-environmental-activist, and the party's presidential nominee in 2012, is once again the party's torch-bearer.

A week before the start of the Republican National Convention, news outlets reported that Ms. Stein offered to step aside and let Mr. Sanders lead the Green Party in the upcoming presidential general election.  Mr. Sanders is the DINO (Democrat In Name Only, an independent who caucuses with Senate Democrats) who challenged Mrs. Clinton for the Democratic Party nomination and did much better than many expected, particularly with Millennial voters.  Ms. Stein, who currently has around 5 percent public support in national political polls, has said that Mr. Sanders could do much better.  Mr. Sanders endorsed Mrs. Clinton for president shortly thereafter, and spoke enthusiastically on her behalf at the Democratic National Convention and at subsequent events.  Nevertheless, Ms. Stein is actively soliciting the support of Mr. Sanders' many disaffected and angry supporters.

In 2012, Ms. Stein received 469,501 votes in the general election (0.36% of the popular vote), making her the most successful female presidential candidate in U.S. history to date.  Supposedly this will change after all the 2016 ballots are counted.

Ms. Stein's running mate is Ajamu Baraka, a human rights activist with deep roots in the Black Liberation Movement.  Their campaign tagline is "It's In Our Hands."  As of late summer, their names will appear on the ballot in 27 states.

Independent Candidate

David Evan McMullin is running as a conservative Republican alternative to Mr. Trump, as some in the GOP do not consider Mr. Trump to be a bona fide Republican at all, and others are not willing to support Mr. Johnson and Mr. Weld, who are Republicans running on the Libertarian Party ticket.  Most recently, Mr. McMullin served as the chief policy director for the House Republican Conference.  Previously, he served as a CIA operations officer.

Mr. McMullin was born in Provo, Utah and is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  When Mr. McMullin announced his candidacy on August 8, 2016, political pundits thought that his entry into the campaign might disrupt Mr. Trump's ability to win Utah's six electoral votes.  Through the end of September 2016, polling in Utah showed that Mr. Trump retained solid voter support in the state, and that Mr. McMullin might actually be drawing support away from Mr. Johnson rather than Mr. Trump.

But in a stunner, on October 11, 2016, Y2 Analytics, a Republican-rooted research and data analysis group based in Salt Lake City, released the results of a survey of 500 likely Utah voters conducted October 10-11 that showed Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton tied at 26% support each, Mr. McMullin at 22%, and Mr. Johnson at 14%, with a 4.4% margin of error.  Essentially, a loose 3-way tie to take the state's half-dozen electoral votes.

A week later, on October 19, 2016, an Emerson College poll showed Mr. McMullin leading the race with 31% over Mr. Trump with 27%, Mrs. Clinton with 24% and Mr. Johnson with 5%.  Mr. McMullin's 4% lead is at the 3.9% margin of error for that poll.

In Virginia, the poll released by Public Policy Polling on September 13, 2016, which is included in the chart to the left, has Mr. McMullin at 1% support in our state.  Recent Christopher Newport University polls have Mr. McMullin's support in Virginia at 3% on September 26, 2016, 2% on October 3, 2016, and 3% on October 16, 2016.  A Roanoke College poll out on October 11, 2016 has Mr. McMullin at 1%.  The Virginia Chamber of Commerce/The Tarrance Group poll on October 18, 2016 had him at 2%.  Even as absentee voting has begun in Virginia, it is doubtful that his support in the state will rise appreciably in the weeks ahead.

As of late September 2016, Mr. McMullin has secured ballot access in 14 states, including Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, New Mexico, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah and Virginia.  To appear on the ballot in Virginia, he had to obtain the signatures of 5,000 registered voters in the state.  Mr. McMullin has missed the filing deadline for ballot access in a number of critical states, including California and Texas.

And here's an odd note.  When Mr. McMullin filed the paperwork necessary for his name to appear on these state election ballots, he listed the name "Nathan Johnson" as his vice presidential nominee.  According to a news report or two, and the McMullin campaign itself, this name was meant to serve as a placeholder until Mr. McMullin selected an official running mate, which has not yet occured.  However, once ballots are finalized, as many already have in advance of early and absentee voting, Mr. Johnson's name cannot be changed.

Joel Searby, Mr. McMullin's pollster and apparent campaign manager, writes that Mr. Johnson "is a close personal friend of Evan’s who agreed to serve as a placeholder because of the extraordinarily tight time-lines an insurgent campaign like ours entails.  Some states required a VP selection on the candidacy forms, and Mr. Johnson agreed to serve in that role, and that role alone."  Mr. Searby then goes on to say that, if the ballots cannot be changed before the election and Mr. McMullin "wins the White House, Vice President Johnson may simply resign.  Section 2 of the Twenty-fifth Amendment provides the mechanism for President McMullin to then nominate a replacement."  Well, that's certainly one way of getting there and back again.  And who knows, once the inaugural balls are over, perhaps Mr. Johnson might like taking up residence at Number One Observatory Circle on the grounds of the U.S. Naval Observatory on Massachusetts Avenue for four years or eight or whatever.

On October 6, 2016, Mr. McMullin announced his selection of GOP consultant and digital/online strategist Mindy Finn as his vice presidential running mate.  From 2011-13 she was head of strategic partnerships for Twitter.  She previously served as congressional correspondent for the Waterbury, Connecticut Republican-American.  She was born and raised in Houston.

Mr. McMullin's catchphrase was "Stand With Evan" through August 15th, the day he qualified to appear on the Utah ballot, but it appears that his campaign has dropped that slogan and has moved to "It's Time For a New Generation of Leadership."

NoVa vs. RoVa -- Two Different Electoral Strategies

Many political observers consider Virginia to be a “purple state” as it undergoes gradual electoral gentrification from reliably “red state” (Republicans) to unpredictable “blue state” (Democrats) in statewide elections particularly in presidential election years (but see discussion immediately below). There are two dominant factors contributing to this change. The first factor is outsized population growth in several major metropolitan areas, including the Northern Virginia suburbs and exburbs outside of Washington, D.C., the extended Richmond capital area, and the Chesapeake/Tidewater area. The second factor is rising voter participation by post-baby boomers (adults born after 1964) who increasingly come from outside of the state to reside in those expanding electoral areas. Generally speaking, and for purposes of trend analysis only, urban and younger voters tend to be more progressive and open to voting for Democratic candidates as compared to mainstream Virginia voters who tend to be more conservative and supportive of Republican candidates who previously dominated statewide elections.

Virginia’s status as a battleground state means that national candidates and parties must fight for voter support in every election cycle. Against the background in recent years of close presidential contests, as well as alternating party control of the US House and Senate, the three major statewide offices in Virginia (Governor, Lieutenant Governor and Attorney General) and the Virginia Senate, every aspect of state electoral politics is now fiercely contested.

Virginia voters cast 3.7 million votes in the 2008 presidential election, of which Barack Obama and Joe Biden won nearly 2 million votes (53%) and John McCain and Sarah Palin won slightly more than 1.7 million votes (46%). Four years later in 2012, Virginia voters cast nearly 3.8 million votes, just shy of 2 million votes for Messrs. Obama and Biden (51%) and slightly more than 1.8 million votes for Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan (47%).

In 2016, it is likely that any winning presidential effort must again win close to 2 million votes or more to secure Virginia’s 13 electoral votes. For a Republican ticket, this means appealing broadly to more traditional Virginia voters across the state, and winning more than 50 percent of the votes cast.

For a Democratic ticket, this means targeting more progressive voters, and winning 700,000 votes in Northern Virginia (Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax, Falls Church, Fauquier, Loudoun, Manassas and Prince William), 400,000 votes in the Chesapeake/Tidewater area (Chesapeake, Hampton, Suffolk, Virginia Beach, Newport News, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Williamsburg and York), 300,000 votes in the Richmond capital area (Albemarle, Charlottesville, Henrico, Petersburg and Richmond), and 25% or so of the votes cast throughout the rest of the state (but especially in areas such as Blacksburg, Brunswick, Caroline, Frederick, Fredericksburg, Roanoke and Winchester).

The Democratic approach is sometimes referred to as NoVa (Northern Virginia) and the Republican approach is sometimes referred to as RoVa (rest of Virginia).  Both are potentially successful strategies, and both will be on display in the 2016 general election.

On June 15, 2016, the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign announced that it was opening local campaign offices in five Virginia cities -- Alexandria, Arlington, Blacksburg, Richmond and Virginia Beach.

The Oddest Political Debate -- Purple vs. Blue

As noted in the NoVa vs. RoVa discussion immediately above, Virginia was deemed a true battleground state at the start of this year's primary elections, caucuses and conventions  But some have read the recent statewide polling data that is summarized at the top left of this page, showing Mrs. Clinton with a widening double-digit lead over Mr. Trump, and are wondering whether Virginia should be reclassifed as a "leaning Democratic" state.  Not so long ago, Virginia was viewed by most as "solidly Republican."

Strong voter turnout often helps Democrats in presidential election years, and spotty voter participation tends to favor Republicans in off-year elections.  For this reason alone (but also because the Democrats are fielding poorly known candidates), Republicans have an excellent chance of reclaiming Virginia's Executive Mansion in next year's gubernatorial election, as well as Mr. Kaine's seat in the U.S. Senate if he becomes Vice President and a special election is held in 2017 to replace him (see 2017 Election page of this website for more information).

Mrs. Clinton may very well capture Virginia's 13 electoral votes in November, but chances are that 2016 will be an anomolous election year and Virginia will remain a politically contested state through the end of the decade if not longer.

Virginia Delegate to the Republican National Convention Wins Anti-Trump Lawsuit

On June 24, 2016, Carroll Boston “Beau” Correll, Jr.a personal injury and criminal defense lawyer from Winchester, Virginia in the Shenandoah Valley (population 26,000), a twice-elected chairman of the Winchester City Republican Committee, a former member of the Virginia Republican Party's Finance Committee, and a pledged delegate from Virginia’s 10th Congressional District to next month’s Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio – filed a 14-page federal class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia in Richmond on behalf of himself and other similarly situated delegates, both Republican and Democratic, against the Virginia Attorney General and five other statewide law enforcement and elections officials, all in their official governmental capacities, challenging the constitutionality of Title 24.2, Section 545(D) of the Virginia Code.

That law provides that, when a political party in Virginia chooses to select its nominee for President of the United States in a primary election, as the state GOP did on March 1, 2016, the state party's designated "delegates and alternates shall be bound to vote on the first ballot at the national convention for the candidate receiving the most votes in the primary unless that candidate releases those delegates and alternates from such vote."  In other words, such delegates must initially vote for the primary election winner, in a winner-take-all contest, and are not immediately free to "vote their consciences."  Violations of this requirement are considered Class 1 misdemeanors punishable by "confinement in jail for not more than twelve months and a fine of not more than $2,500, either or both."

As summarized to the left and reported on the Local Headlines page of this website, Republican Party presidential candidate Donald Trump won the Virginia GOP primary on Super Tuesday with 35 percent of the votes cast.  Thus, on the lead-off nominating ballot at the Republican National Convention, Virginia district-level delegates like Mr. Correll are required to vote for Mr. Trump, who has amassed a majority of the delegates through the party's primary elections, caucuses and state-level conventions and is presently considered the GOP's presumptive presidential nominee.

According to his legal complaint, Mr. Correll "believes that Donald Trump is unfit to serve as President of the United States and that voting for Donald Trump would therefore violate [his] conscience."  Mr. Correll, like so many others, wants to vote for someone other than Mr. Trump, and he claims that Virginia's law requiring him to do so at the GOP convention, or face criminal prosecution, violates his First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and freedom of political association.  One could argue that whatever Mr. Correll and his cohorts say or do the week of the convention would be ideologically criminal, but that's probably why the Bushes, Romneys, McCains and many other Republican stalwarts are staying away from Cleveland this summer.  That and the anticipated protests, riots, shootings and mayhem.

Mr. Correll had his day in court on July 7th, when Senior U.S. District Court Judge Robert Payne, who was nominated to the federal bench by President George H.W. Bush in 1991, held a 6-hour-long hearing in this case.  Mr. Correll acknowledged that he had supported U.S. Senator Ted Cruz from Texas in the primary election, but would now vote for anyone other than Mr. Trump.

One of Mr. Correll's attorneys told news reporters that his client's legal challenge is being financed by Citizens in Charge Foundation, which works "to protect and defend the ballot initiative process . . . to shift power back into the hands of ordinary citizens."  This group has ties to anti-tax advocate Grover Norquist (he is a member of its board), a recently-formed organization called Delegates Unbound (one of its co-founders, Eric O'Keefe, also sits on Citizens' board), and the Libertarian Party (whose immediate past chairman, former Treasurer and current at-large representative, William Redpath, is another founding board member).

Meanwhile, a former Republican party chairman in District 10 asked the state GOP to remove Mr. Correll as a delegate to this year's national convention.  And the vice chair of Mr. Trump's Virginia campaign told reporters that Mr. Correll's lawsuit "represents the epitome of arrogance -- it's a self-aggrandizing, egomaniacal publicity stunt with no foundation and no chance of success."  Seriously, is there no recognition of irony here?  The same criticism has been directed at Mr. Trump for months now.

Remember (see Local Headlines page of this website), this is the same party that fought, won and then abandoned a federal court battle to force voters to sign a loyalty pledge before voting in the Virginia Republican primary on March 1st to keep out mischievous cross-over Democrats and independents who hoped to influence the selection of the party's nominee but had no intention of supporting the winner in the November general election.  What, that's totally crazy, who would do such a thing?  And the joke continues, because at the time Mr. Cruz's supporters pushed for the loyalty pledge and Mr. Trump's supporters opposed it.

On July 11th, Judge Payne issued a 65-page opinion that invalidated the challenged Virginia law as unconstitutional.  Here are the highlights of the judge's decision:

  • Time was limited so the class action was not certified.  The judge's decision technically applies only to Mr. Correll.  However, since the law was struck down, it can not be enforced against anyone, class or no class.
  • The judge allowed eight other Virginia delegates to the Republican National Convention to join the lawsuit as additional defendants so that they could argue against Mr. Correll.
  • VIrginia's non-partisan Chief Deputy Attorney General told the judge that the challenged Virginia law has never been enforced against anyone and there are no foreseeable circumstances in which Mr. Correll or any other delegate of either party would ever be prosecuted for actions taken as a delegate at a national political convention, including voting for a candidate who did not win his or her party primary in Virginia.
  • States have no constitutional role in determining how Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates are selected, how political parties go about their business, how political conventions are conducted, and how convention delegates may vote.
  • The 49-member Virginia delegation to the RNC will not have to cast all their votes for Mr. Trump.  They can now cast their votes in proportion to the results of Virginia's primary election as contemplated by Republican Party rules.

2016 Presidential and Vice Presidential Debates

The independent and non-partisan Commission on Presidential Debates (Commission) has announced the following schedule of three presidential and one vice presidential debates:

Presidential Debates

The first presidential debate was held on Monday, September 26, 2016, at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York.  Lester Holt, the weeknight anchor of NBC Nightly News, served as the sole moderator.  In the days leading up to this debate, Mr. Trump accused Mr. Holt on Fox News of being a Democrat and slyly questioned his ability to serve as an impartial debate moderator.  While Mr. Holt did not respond to these allegations, many others noted that New York State's public voter-registration records show that Mr. Holt has been a registered Republican for many years.

The second presidential debate was held on Sunday, October 9, 2016, at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.  The debate took the form of a town hall meeting, with ABC News' Chief Global Affairs Correspondent Martha Raddatz and CNN's Anderson Cooper serving as co-moderators.  Mr. Cooper anchors his eponymous show, Anderson Cooper 360°, on CNN, concurrently serves as a correspondent for the CBS News program 60 Minutes, and was for many years a news correspondent and part-time news anchor for ABC News.  And Mr. Anderson is also a great-great-great-grandson of Cornelius Vanderbilt. 

As with Mr. Holt, Mr. Trump attacked CNN and Mr. Cooper on Fox News, saying "I’m not okay with Anderson Cooper because I think he treats me very unfairly at CNN.  I think he’s very unfair.  He’s very unfair on CNN.  I think CNN, they call it the Clinton News Network, that’s why the ratings aren’t doing very well.”  Neither CNN nor Mr. Cooper responded to Mr. Trump's comments, but the Washington Post ran a story entitled Donald Trump’s shot at Anderson Cooper is all about working the refs that fairly describes the tactical situation.

"He's a Russian puppet!"  "No, you're the puppet!"  With some editorial license, those are two of the verbal throwdowns from the third and final presidential debate held on October 19, 2016 at the University of Nevada - Las Vegas.  The debate's single moderator, the best of this year's debate cycle, was Chris Wallace, the host of Fox News Sunday.  After Mr. Trump incorrectly alleged that Mr. Holt was a partisan Democrat and unfit to serve as an unbiased debate moderator, Mr. Wallace publicly acknowledged that he has been a registered Democrat in the District of Columbia for more than two decades.  But he explains that simple pragmatism drives his choice as "there is really only one party.  If you want a say in who's going to be the next mayor or councilman, you have to vote in the Democratic primary."  Plus, he has worked for Republican-supportive Fox News for the past 13 years so that should clear any taint.  Though Mr. Wallace worked for nearly 30 years before that first at NBC News and then at ABC News, is the son of long-time 60 Minutes reporter Mike Wallace, and is the step son of former CBS News president Bill Leonard, so the taint may be too deep to remove.  On October 13, 2016, the bi-partisan Commission on Presidential Debates, the official sponsor of all the presidential and vice presidential debates, announced that Mr. Wallace the Younger selected the following topics for the last 90-minute debate:  debt and entitlements, immigration, the economy, the U.S. Supreme Court, foreign hot spots, and fitness for office.  For more information about this year's election, please see the 2016 Election page of this website.

Vice Presidential Debate

The single vice presidential debate was held on Tuesday, October 4, 2016, at Longwood University, in Farmville, Virginia.  Elaine Quijano, an American of Filipino descent, was the sole moderator.  She is an anchor for CBS News' 24-hour digital streaming network, a correspondent for CBS News, anchor of the Sunday edition of CBS Weekend News, and a former White House correspondent for CNN.

The Town of Farmville is the county seat of Prince Edward County.  It is located 60 miles west of Richmond and Petersburg, and has a population of between 8,000 and 9,000 people.  Longwood University has about 5,000 students, most of them undergraduates.  The all-in annual cost to attend Longwood (tuition, fees, room and board) is about $22,200 for Virginia residents and $36,600 for out-of-state students.

The back-up moderator for all four of the debates is Steve Scully, the regular Sunday host of C-SPAN's Washington Journal.

Eligibility for Candidate Participation

To participate in the presidential and vice presidential debates, candidates must:

  • Appear on a sufficient number of state ballots to have a mathematical chance of winning a majority vote in the Electoral College.
  • Have a level of support of at least 15 percent of the national electorate as determined by the following five selected national public opinion polling organizations, using the average of those organizations' most recently publicly-reported results by mid-September:

       ABC News/Washington Post
       CBS News/New York Times
       NBC News/Wall Street Journal
       Fox News
       CNN/Opinion Research Corporation

On September 16, 2016, the Commission announced that Mr. Johnson and Ms. Stein would not be participating in the presidential debate on September 26th, and that Mr. Weld would not be joining the vice presidential debate on October 4th, because the Libertarians' national polling average was 8.4% and the Greens' national polling average was 3.2%.

Cost to Host a Presidential or Vice Presidential Debate

According to the Associated Press, the estimated cost for a college or university to host a presidential or vice presidential debate (for staging, supplemental campus security, and accommodating 2,500 news reporters) is approximately $5 million.

Purpose of the Presidential Debates

Tradition and exposure.  The history of presidential debates actually starts with the seven Abraham Lincoln-Stephen A. Douglas debates in 1858 when the two were running against each other for a U.S. Senate seat from Illinois (in an era preceding the 17th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the direct election of U.S. Senators starting in 1913, Democrats holding a majority of the seats in the Illinois legislature returned Mr. Douglas to the Senate).  These debates, the most famous in American politics, set the stage for their re-match run for the presidency two years later in 1860 (which Mr. Lincoln won).  The first televised presidential debate was between Richard M. Nixon and John F. Kennedy in 1960.  There were no presidential debates between 1960 and 1976, when the current format of three presidential debates and a single vice presidential debate was established (there were variations in the debate pattern in the early presidential elections after 1976, but more consistency in the 3-and-1 debate scheme in more recent presidential elections).

Independent and undecided voters.  Most hard-to-motivate voters don't start paying attention to presidential politics until the debates begin, so this is the first opportunity for national tickets to introduce themselves and make their case to these important "swing" voters.

Expectations and ego.  It's hard to say that you want to lead the country but are unwilling to debate your opponents.  Fortunately, most Americans aren't interested in detailed policy positions, so most candidates can succeed simply by "looking presidential," landing a few premeditated verbal barbs, avoiding embarassing gaffes, and not sweating unduly.

Commander-In-Chief Forum

On September 7, 2016, the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and NBC News co-hosted an hour-long Commander-in-Chief Forum held on the hangar deck at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum at Pier 86 on the west side of Manhattan in New York City.  The forum was moderated by broadcast personality Matt Lauer, and simulcasted on NBC and its cable sibling MSNBC.  The two major-party presidential nominees -- first Democrat Hillary Clinton for 30 minutes followed by Republican Donald Trump for 30 minutes -- appeared separately but back-to-back before a curated "audience that include[d] military veterans and active service members" to answer their questions regarding "national security, military affairs and veterans issues." 

This was not a classic head-to-head debate.  While the conversations were substantive, the format was a bit silly due to the event's brevity.  Mr. Lauer was widely criticized by both Republicans and Democrats for mishandling the two candidates and the discussion during the forum.

Early Voting

On September 9th, North Carolina kicked-off the 2016 general election by mailing absentee ballots to registered voters who requested them.  In-person presidential voting starts as early as September 23 in Virginia, Idaho, Minnesota, South Dakota and Vermont.  Every state offers some form of absentee voting, and at least 36 states and the District of Columbia offer early in-person voting.  Colorado, Oregon and Washington have all implemented universal mail-in voting in which all registered voters automatically receive their ballots in the mail.  The New York Times reports that "[n]early 32 percent of voters cast their ballots before Election Day in 2012."

Trump on Twitter

Two reporters from the New York Times have read all of Mr. Trump's tweets over the past 12 months so we don't have to and have provided a comprehensive list of The 282 People, Places and Things Donald Trump Has Insulted on Twitter" as of October 23, 2016.

2016 Alt-Election Guide for Undecided Voters

Click here for a cheat sheet if you are truly undecided as to who you should support this year.

 

2016 Virginia 8th Congressional District Election

These are the three candidates seeking to represent the residents of Virginia's 8th Congressional District in the 115th U.S. Congress from January 3, 2017 to January 3, 2019:

  The incumbent, Donald Beyer, Jr., was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives two years ago and is now seeking re-election to office. Congressman Beyer is a successful local businessman, a former two-term Lieutenant Governor of Virginia under Democratic Governor Doug Wilder and Republican Governor George Allen, and a former U.S. Ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein. When he ran for election to Congress in 2014, Mr. Beyer was considered the establishment Democratic Party candidate to succeed long-serving Congressman Jim Moran in a contested election. Congressman Beyer did not face an opponent in this year's state Democratic Primary held on June 14, 2016.  The Washington Post published a profile on Mr. Beyer on October 24, 2016, and the Alexandria Times ran a story on Mr. Beyer on October 27, 2016.

  Charles Hernick, an environmental consultant and first-time candidate for public office, is the Republican Party's nominee for Virginia's 8th Congressional District seat. He defeated Mike Webb for the nomination at the Republican District 8 Convention held on May 7, 2016.

  Failing to obtain the Republican Party nomination, Mike Webb is now running as an independent candidate for this office. On May 16, 2016, Mr. Webb, a self-described conservative Republican who claims the bible is his favorite book, posted a series of screenshots to his Facebook page displaying his search for a temporary job in Alexandria. At least one of the screenshots showed two open tabs on the page, which, according to published news reports, both linked to pornographic websites. Mr. Webb later said that he knew the tabs were open when he posted the screenshots and has "nothing to hide." Apparently, he also quoted scripture and concluded, "what does not kill you does make you stonger." Over the course of a day, Mr. Webb's Facebook followers jumped in number from several hundred to several hundred thousand.

Virginia's 8th Congressional District

The voter registration data in the chart below is the most recent available from the Virginia Department of Elections.

Based on the Congressional Apportionment derived from the 2010 U.S. Census, the average congressional district should contain a population of about 710,767.  Thus, registered voters in the 8th Congressional District represent 67 percent of the target population of the district, and active registered voters represent 58 percent of such population. 

According to an explanation provided by the Virginia Department of Elections, "a voter who appears to have moved from their residence of registration, but has not responded to a request to confirm their residence, is maintained on the voter lists as 'inactive' through the next two federal elections. 'Inactive' voters are eligible to vote if they re-register, or if they appear at the polls (or apply to vote absentee) and confirm that they have not moved (or have moved, but within the same locality and congressional district). If they do not reactivate their registrations, they are removed from the rolls after two federal elections have passed."

 

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