As in the recent Florida and South Carolina primaries, yesterday's vote in Virginia revealed strong support for John McCain among military personnel and veterans.
Voting patterns in Virginia's 95 counties and 39 indepedent cities reveal that the Arizona Senator achieved some of his largest victory margins in the state's 2nd Congressional District, which is home to a host of Navy facilities, including the Norfolk Navy Base; the Naval Air Station at Oceana, and the Little Creek Amphibious Base in Virginia Beach.
McCain racked up similar totals in the adjacent 1st Congressional District, which contains the giant Northrup-Grumman shipyard in Newport News; Langley AFB in neighboring Hampton; a pair of Army installations (Ft Eustis and Ft Monroe), and the Yorktown Naval Weapons Station.
While the 2nd District has been a marginally Republican area in recent elections (Republican Congresswoman Velma Drake was reelected in a tight race two years ago), the area's electorate has the second-highest concentration of military and veterans in the nation. The 1st District has been solidly Republican for more than a decade, thanks--in part--to large blocs of military voters in areas like York County, Gloucester County and Poquoson.
On Tuesday, both areas went for McCain by large margins. In the Second District, the Senator won easily over Mike Huckabee in the military communities of Portsmouth (49-43%); Norfolk (53-37%) and Virginia Beach (53-38%). McCain's totals in those communities helped offset Huckabee's advantage in the rural counties of western and southern Virginia.
McCain carried the First District by similar margins. While he beat Huckabee in Hampton (home of Langley AFB) by only three points, 47-44%, McCain rolled up larger margins in the cities of Newport News (49-43%); Poquoson (51-39%); York County (49-42%) and Gloucester County (48-43%).
The Arizona Senator also scored well among military voters in Virginia's Eighth Congressional District, home to active duty personnel, retirees and veterans who work in Washington, or its southern suburbs. In Fairfax County, McCain more than doubled Huckabee's vote total (64-24%) and ran strongly in nearby Loudon County (which he carried by 57-32% margin).
If there's a dark lining in McCain's Virginia win, it could be seen in some of the Republican precincts of the Tidewater Peninsula. At mid-day Tuesday, turnout in the town of Poquoson was running below projections, according to one official. Poquoson, which lies adjacent to Langley AFB, is perhaps the "reddest" community in a region where Republicans outnumber Democrats.
A friend of ours who votes at a school in York County school (less than 10 miles away) reported similar numbers. He arrived at the polling place just after lunch and described it as a "ghost town," with more election officials outnumbering voters. Statewide, Republican voting totals ran well behind those of Democrats.
That's not completely unexpected, but a low turnout in places like Poquoson and York County suggests that many GOP voters stayed home--another indication of the fence-mending that McCain must do, if he hopes to carry Virginia in November.