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Democrat Terry McAuliffe beat Republican Ken Cuccinelli in Virginia’s governor race, outraising Cuccinelli nearly two-to-one and dominating in the richest part of the state.
What’s going on here?
First, upper-middle class, white suburbs have marched steadily toward the Democrats for several decades. Montgomery County, Md., and Arlington, Va., switched sides. So did the wealthy New York suburbs in Westchester County, N.Y., and Fairfield County, Conn. Philadelphia’s “collar counties,” once Republican bastions, are now Democratic bellwethers.
Why are the white-collar suburbs moving to the Dems? “I think it’s the social issues,” Bill DuBose tells me at Greenberry’s coffee shop in McLean.
The McLean Greenberry’s is the type of place where everyone knows the name of his state delegate. When I pulled into Greenberry’s, I parked between a Mercedes and a BMW.
Most families in McLean earn more than $200,000, according to the Census Bureau.
McLean lies within the Dranesville District of Fairfax County. Dranesville runs along the Potomac River from the Arlington border to the Loudoun County border. It includes the mansions overlooking the cliffs of the Potomac. Dranesville includes the CIA headquarters in the Langley neighborhood and lush, bucolic Great Falls. In Dranesville, there are neighborhoods you’re not rich enough to even know about.
It’s home to lobbyists like former Sen. Byron Dorgan and his lobbyist wife Kimberly. Newt Gingrich lives in a gated community in McLean. And, of course, Terry McAuliffe resides in McLean.
In 2009, Republican Bob McDonnell eked out a win in Dranesville, 51 percent to 49 percent. In 2012, Obama carried Dranesville 56 to 44.
On Tuesday, McAuliffe won Dranesville 57 to 38. He carried the McLean precinct 59 to 36.
Robin Walker of McLean identifies herself as a Republican. She thinks taxes are “way too high.” She voted for McDonnell in 2009 and Mitt Romney in 2012, she told me at Greenberry’s. But on Tuesday, Walker voted straight Democrat. Why? “Women’s issues,” were the first words out of her mouth – matching the thesis of DuBose, her financial planner.
In his past career, DuBose was a federal lobbyist. He calls himself an independent, but, like Walker, he attended a few McAuliffe fundraisers this year.
DuBose agrees that Fairfax’s leftward tack mirrors the progression of most suburbs outside the South. But he points out that in Fairfax, there’s another factor: The county’s wealth comes from big government.
Outside Greenberry’s, a federal employee who wouldn’t give me his name described himself as a “Rockefeller Republican.” He praised the tax hikes in the “Simpson-Bowles” deficit reduction plan. A Republican who backed McDonnell and Romney, this 40-year veteran of the federal government told me he was still an undecided voter as of 10 a.m. on Election Day. While he found McAuliffe “untrustworthy,” he derided Cuccinelli as a Tea Partier.
This echoed McAuliffe ads blasting Ken Cuccinelli as a “Tea Party” Republican and a “shutdown Republican” cozy with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.
McLean has no use for Tea Partiers. If the Tea Party was about grabbing pitchforks and storming the castle, McLean is the castle.
Two career federal employees can easily bring in the $200,000 that makes you an average household in McLean. More to the point, revolving-door lobbyists and executives for federal contractors make a lot more than that and live large in McLean.
McLean is the home to the ruling class. And Terry McAuliffe is the candidate of the ruling class.
To outside observers, McAuliffe’s involvement with a subsidy-suckling green car boondoggle derided by a Virginia official as a “visa for hire scheme” is sketchy. At Greenberry’s in McLean, one voter praised it as “business success.”
And Cuccinelli grates on the elites of McLean. His first crusade was opposing Northern Virginia developers in their campaign for tax hikes to build roads. He’s made battling crony capitalism a major theme of his campaign. Maybe more importantly, Cuccinelli has been branded as a social conservative.
The day before Election Day, at an outdoor Cuccinelli rally in Culpeper, a full hour outside the Beltway, State Delegate Bryce Reeves was the emcee. He quoted three bible verses. At all the Cuccinelli rallies, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg – a big McAuliffe backer – was invoked as the devil. In Culpeper, a farm tractor sat next to Cuccinelli’s stage.
In McLean, Chevy Chase, Md., and Scarsdale, N.Y., you don’t see tractors, and you don’t casually cite scripture.
Political trends rarely move in straight lines, but Cuccinelli-McAuliffe highlights a trend: Democrats are becoming the party of the elites.
Republicans need to figure out what sort of party they are going to become.
Timothy P. Carney, The Washington Examiner’s senior political columnist, can be contacted at [email protected] His column appears Sunday and Wednesday on washingtonexaminer.com.
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