[Sun Gazette editorials represent the viewpoint of Sun Gazette Newspapers, which provides content to, but is otherwise unaffiliated with, InsideNoVa or Rappahannock Media LLC.]
Where should the national media go to get an early read on the direction on the 2020 presidential election? (Hint: It is not Iowa or New Hampshire, but considerably closer to home.)
While increasingly blue Virginia may not be in play, there are a couple of places in the commonwealth where it might be edifying to see how voters are feeling.
Take, for instance, Essex County. In 2008, Barack Obama won the county by a margin of more than 10 percent over the hapless John McCain. In 2012, the electorate there had soured a bit: His margin was trimmed to 7.3 percent over the (equally hapless) Mitt Romney.
But in 2016? Voters there switched to Trump, who defeated the [insert the twice-aforementioned “h”-word here] Hillary Clinton by 2.1 percent.
Or go to Westmoreland County, where the results were even more striking: Obama’s margin of victory was 10.2 percent in 2008 and nearly 7 percent in 2012, but Trump won by 7 percent in 2016.
Or go to Buckingham County, where Obama eked out a victory with a margin of 0.9 percent in 2008, actually increased it to 2.4 percent in 2012, but then Trump defeated Clinton by more than 11 percent in 2016.
(Thanks to Ballotpedia for all the data.)
After the 2016 election, the national media promised it was going to go and find out why one-time Obama voters went for Trump rather than Clinton. It didn’t really take Woodward-and-Bernstein skills to figure that out – Hillary Clinton was no Barack Obama – but few in the national media ever bothered to follow up, retreating to their cocktail parties and bubble of the like-minded.
Still, it would be interesting to see where voters in those three counties stand at the moment. Our hunch is Trump has held his ground, but either way, it would be edifying to know for sure. Because as go those counties, apparently, so goes the nation.