Politics

What do Virginia Democrats like more than Obama? Showing up to beat Trump

What do Virginia Democrats like more than Obama? Showing up to beat Trump

Virginians showed up in record numbers for Tuesday’s Democratic presidential primary, leading a national wave of strong voter turnout that analysts said is all about defeating President Trump.

Roughly 1.3 million Virginia voters cast ballots, about 21 percent of the electorate, according to unofficial results. That’s up from the previous record of about 986,000 votes and 18 percent of the electorate in 2008, when Barack Obama was challenging Hillary Clinton for the party’s nomination.

Back then, voters sensed history in Obama potentially becoming the first African American nominated by a major party. Tuesday’s turnout was different.

Exit polling showed that most voters were seeking a candidate — any candidate — to defeat Trump. Virginia, which has undergone a dramatic blue shift since Trump’s win in 2016, responded more eagerly than any other state. Its turnout represented a 69 percent increase over the 2016 primary, compared to an average jump of 33 percent across nine Super Tuesday states in which the vote count is complete or has been projected by Edison Media Research.

The second-biggest increase was 60 percent in Texas.

“The interest . . . in defeating Donald Trump is so intense that it’s almost unprecedented,” Richmond political scientist Bob Holsworth said.

Former vice president Joe Biden was the beneficiary of the Virginia groundswell, easily beating Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and three other hopefuls as he won nine of the 14 Super Tuesday states.

“It’s just extraordinary. In the commonwealth of Virginia, folks are fired up. They want to beat Trump,” former governor Terry McAuliffe (D) said in an interview. He pointed to massive jumps in turnout in the once-purple D.C. suburbs, which he said reflected “the intensity of the anti-Trump feeling in Northern Virginia.”

Janet Salcedo, 50, votes at Yorkshire Elementary School in Manassas, Va., on Tuesday. Turnout was sharply up in Prince William County. (Evelyn Hockstein/For The Washington Post)

Based on preliminary totals at the Virginia Department of Elections, Loudoun County reported nearly 72,000 people casting votes — up from a little more than 52,000 who voted in both the Democratic and Republican primaries in 2008. Prince William County’s turnout was just shy of 71,000, up from 57,500 in the earlier contests. Biden won both counties by a wide margin.

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