Some Thoughts on Virginia

Dems Should Feel Good About

Historical Trends and a Good Cushion — In much of this analysis I’ll compare the 2021 early vote to 2020 and 2017. But in the end, Dems don’t need an electorate composition as favorable as either year! Let’s keep in mind that Biden carried the state by 10 points. Similarly, the 2017 electorate produced a a 9 point Dem margin of victory. Lagging behind either year, in terms of turnout shares for traditionally Democratic constituencies, isn’t necessarily a harbinger of doom.

GOPs Should Feel Good About

An Older Electorate — The youth vote (under age 30) is lagging badly behind previous benchmarks. Sure, we would expect the youth vote to lag the vote shares we saw in the historic 2020 presidential election. What is more disconcerting for Dems is how far behind 2017 benchmarks the youth vote currently lags. Yes, 2017 had much stricter rules around voting early, but one would assume the liberalization of early voting rules for this election relative to ’17 would result in a younger early vote electorate.

Early Vote Vote Shares by Age Group

Mixed Indicators

Modeled Partisanship — Our TargetEarly site breaks down the early vote by modeled partisanship, a helpful indicator of the potential party self ID of those who have already cast a ballot in Virginia. Since voters aren’t able to register with a party in Virginia, this is our best indicator of relative partisan turnout. That said, we must keep in mind that modeled partisanship is a moving target. Each year, our team updates the partisan models, reflecting our best estimate of each voter’s political leaning. As Virginia has trended more Democratic in recent years, the model has also seen more movement towards the Democratic side of the scale. So, while the TargetEarly data shows a stronger Dem advantage among early voters than we have seen in recent elections, at least part of that is almost certainly due to movement in the model.

The Bottom Line

This race will almost certainly be close. At a minimum, closer than the Dem statewide wins in ’20 and ’17. Election Day will be decisive. I’ll have more to share on election night! Feel free to follow me on Twitter.



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Tom Bonier

Tom Bonier


CEO @TargetSmart,, Adjunct Lecturer @ Howard University, Formerly @ClarityCampaigns and @NCEC1948