John Judis and Ruy Teixeira's well-regarded 2002 work The Emerging Democratic Majority begins with a vignette set in Virginia. They tell the story of a telecom executive named Mark Warner, who runs a moderate campaign that appeals to upper-middle class suburbanites and working class rural voters, and manages to put together a winning coalition that, if imitated in other states, might put the Democrats in power for decades to come.
Given this background, it’s only appropriate that the first tangible sign that this coalition is coming unglued has come in Virginia. Republican Bob McDonnell won the governorship with almost 59% of the vote – the highest percentage (though not the highest victory margin) for any governor since 1961. The entire Republican ticket won by similar margins, and the GOP picked up six seats in the General Assembly. It could have been even worse – five Democrats won their Assembly races by fewer than 1,000 votes.
There are some superficial lessons to be drawn here.
Trende's article, backed with some good voter trend analysis, asks some interesting questions and is worth a read.