(Editor’s note – I apologize for my absence due to health reasons. RetireJimMoran.com is back and will put Moran in the pressure cooker until November!)
This may be old news at this point, but it would be a disservice to the district not to talk about last month’s primary.
As you can read in the posts below, the Democratic establishment deliberately tried to thwart Bruce Shuttleworth’s primary challenge. Moran ended up winning 74%-26%. At first glance, this looks like a landslide win for Moran. But is there more to it than that?
Local Democrats criticized Shuttleworth for appealing to Republicans to vote for him in the Democratic primary. However, there was a statewide Republican primary for U.S. Senate with four candidates running, and Virginia law does not allow voters to vote in the primaries of two parties, so any Republicans crossing over to vote for Shuttleworth would have had to forgo voting in a four-way Senate primary.
So, let’s dig into the data.
31,024 people voted in the Democratic primary. Moran received about 23,000 votes to Shuttleworth’s 8,000.
First question: Do the results show a significant impact of crossover Republicans?
In 2010, there was a heated Republican primary in the 8th District between Patrick Murray and Matthew Berry. 13,790 people voted in that primary. In this year’s Senate primary, 13,955 8th District voters participated in the Republican primary, almost the exact same number as 2010. Now, it is a bit apples-and-oranges to compare the two primaries, given that this is a high turnout presidential election year and the primary was for the Senate, not the House. But 2010′s Republican congressional primary was a high intensity one; Murray won by only 3%. This year’s Senate primary was low intensity, as George Allen cruised to victory in the 8th District and statewide, and there was never much doubt that Allen would win. So, let’s say the intensity gap between the two Republican primaries compensates for the increased attention to this year’s primary. Given that premise, about the same number of Republicans voted in this year’s primary as they did in 2010 when there was no Democratic primary. A local blogger’s analysis showed that if all of this year’s 13,955 Republican primary voters crossed over and voted for Shuttleworth, Moran still would have won. So the answer to the question is no, Republican crossovers did not make a significant impact on the results of the Moran-Shuttleworth primary, so it was decided by mostly Democrats, perhaps some independents, and a minimal number of Republicans, and the results can be taken as accurate and representative of local Democrats.
That leads to our next question: Are the results significant? Did Shuttleworth make an impact and reveal something about local Democrats?
It cannot be ignored that Moran won in a landslide, garnering 23,000 votes. But 8,000 (25%) for his opponent is a big number. That means there are at least a quarter of local Democrats who are not satisfied with Jim Moran. For someone who’s been in office for two decades, winning by large margins every election, that is an awfully large number of disaffected members of the party base. Now, a quarter can’t overrule three quarters who appear to be satisfied with Moran, so speaking strictly on a party basis, the results aren’t significant. But that means at least a quarter of the Democratic base is unhappy with the Democratic incumbent, and that quarter is thus more likely to consider voting against Moran in the fall. If you combine those thousands of Democrats with tens of thousands of Republicans, and tens of thousands of independents who dislike Moran, that means something.
So, did the primary results upend the reality we’ve known for two decades? No. But you simply cannot ignore 8,000 people. What this primary did show is that there are a lot of Democrats who want something more, who believe we deserve better than Jim Moran. Combine those disaffected Democrats with independents and Republicans, and you’ve got something. Moran should consider that.