There are Presidential year elections (2012)
There are off-year elections (2014)
And then there are off-off-year elections (2013)*
By now we're sick of hearing that Democratic base turnout is low in off-year elections, leading to results like 2010. The Chuck Todds of the world are pounding that theme over and and over.
But will it be true in 2014? In Virginia in 2013 (an off-off year), something different happened.
As Kos wrote last week, "Virginia proved last year that it could maintain African-American turnout in a non-presidential election." That is a striking development compared to prior off-year elections.
But it wasn't just African Americans who turned out in Presidential numbers in an off-year in Virginia.
Women, and particularly single women, are also a key part of the Democratic base, and they turned out in Virginia last November, voting for Terry McAuliffe (D) by 67 percent to 25 percent. Critically, like African-Americans, their turnout equaled the turnout in 2012.
The same is true of Latinos. According to Blue Virginia, 95,000 Latino votes were cast in 2013, according to the Latino Decisions exit poll. "In contrast, the 2009 Virginia Governor's election saw just 45,000 Latinos vote. Thus, Latinos made up 3% of the Virginia electorate in 2009 & approximately 5% this time." (The Latino vote in Virginia increased from 74,000 in 2008 to 103,000 in 2012, according to American Progress.)
The "Yute" vote (as Fred Gwynne would have said) did not go as overwhelmingly to McCauliffe as the African American, single women and Latino votes did, but it did support him 45-39. Moreover, as reported by Rock the Vote:
the youth vote's share of the overall electorate in Virginia increased by 3% points when compared to the 2009 gubernatorial election. Among voters 18-29 years of age, Terry McAuliffe beat Ken Cuccinelli 45% to 39%. In 2013, the Democratic share of the youth vote increased by 1% point and the Republican share decreased by 15% points when compared to 2009.This is bad news for Republicans.
Fortunately, the Democrats have noticed these signs from Virginia and organized the Bannock Street Project, designed to increase off-year turnout to Presidential year turnout, especially among the groups mentioned here. (“Bannock Street” is drawn from the name of the Denver field headquarters for the campaign of Senator Michael Bennet, who won in 2010 in part by generating higher than forecast turnout.)
Virginia has produced a road map for success in 2014. By volunteering and contributing, we can keep the Senate and perhaps even regain the House (a long shot because of gerrymandering, but worth the effort).
*There are also off-off-off-year elections, like FL-13. Although the GOP win there has been used by the pundits to predict Dem. gloom and doom, it should not be. It had long been a Republican seat, the candidate was weak and as an off-off-off year election it posed the greatest possible challenge for Democratic turnout.