If you want to know why Republican Ken Cuccinelli lost the governorship of the Old Dominion yesterday, look no further than white evangelicals. Four years ago, when Republican Bob McDonnell won, they constituted 34 percent of the electorate. This time, it was 27 percent.
In Virginia these days, over 80 percent of white evangelicals vote Republican regardless of the candidate. Eighty-three percent of them voted for McDonnell in 2009 and Mitt Romney in 2012; 81 percent voted for Cuccinelli (with two percent hiving off for the Libertarian candidate Robert Sarvis). Meanwhile, non-evangelicals voted for McDonnell’s Democratic opponent Craig Deeds 55-44, for President Obama over Romney 64-35, and for Terry McAuliffe over Cuccinelli 61-31.
In 2009, McDonnell was able to maintain his evangelical base while attracting a sufficient number of non-evangelicals to win in a landslide. But even if Cuccinelli had not picked up a larger percentage of the non-evangelical vote, he would have won narrowly had the proportions of evangelical and non-evangelicals been what they were four years ago.
There’s every reason to think that the proportion of the white evangelical vote in Virginia will continue to shrink. The bottom line is that the future looks bleak for hard-shell social conservatives like Cuccinelli running for statewide office.