Story by Chris Graham
Virginia Republicans were a bit worried when they saw the exit polls that were coming in Tuesday afternoon were showing that George W. Bush would win the balloting in the Old Dominion by a slight three-point margin.
But when the vote totals that started pouring in from across the state Tuesday night revealed a much bigger victory for the president over Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, it was almost as if the close race that had been touted for several months in the polls and the news media had never happened.
“Virginians have sent a clear message in overwhelming numbers that they are united behind the values and principles of the Republican Party,” GOP state chair Kate Obenshain Griffin said Tuesday night.
With 97 percent of precincts in the Commonwealth reporting just after midnight Wednesday, Bush led Kerry by 250,000 votes of the more than 3 million tallies that had been counted.
Bush’s haul was 53.8 percent of the vote total. Kerry polled 45.3 percent.
“From the first day of this election, Virginia Democrats have been steadfast in our resolve to compete and win the race for president,” Democratic Party of Virginia chairman Kerry Donley said Tuesday night.
“From day one, we said clearly that we would not cede our great Commonwealth to George Bush and the divisive cynicism of the Republican Party … and we didn’t,” Donley said.
Perhaps they should have is the point that will be made in the days and weeks ahead, given the wide gap between Bush and Kerry on Election Day.
“I don’t think the presidential race in Virginia was ever as close as the Democrats here were making it out to be,” said Rick Johnson, the spokesman for the Ralph Nader Virginia presidential campaign, which was reduced to waging a write-in effort after failing to get on the state ballot this summer.
“The state hasn’t gone for a Democrat since Lyndon Johnson in 1964. Seeing what we saw tonight is no real surprise,” Johnson told The Augusta Free Press.
“Traveling across a dozen precincts in Central and Western Virginia today, I was excited by the high turnout,” Del. Ben Cline, R-Rockbridge, told the AFP.
“What I noticed was a high turnout among Republicans and among Democrats. People were energized by this race,” Cline said. “But after seeing the turnout at the polls, I was confident that Virginia was going to go early and was going to go Bush.
“This is in line with what we had expected with the presidential election. These results show that Virginia continues to be a strong Republican state that stands in support of a strong Republican candidate like George W. Bush,” Cline said.