Virginia: McDonnell Wins After Lackluster Turnout

The AP and MSNBC have called the Virginia gubernatorial race for Republican Bob McDonnell.

The unsurprising win keeps the Virginia tradition going – the party that controls the White House has lost the election for governor since 1977.

Though it came later than expected, it’s bad news for Virginia Democrats, who are likely to lose House seats tonight and potentially the downticket races as well. The Democrats have held the governor’s mansion since 2002 and have made gains in recent years.

President Obama was the first Democrat to win the state’s presidential vote since 1964, and Virginia’s electoral votes put him over the top to capture the presidency.

Creigh Deeds (D) had banked his entire strategy in the last few weeks on turning out Obama voters.In 2005, nearly 45 percent of the electorate turned out to elect Tim Kaine, who is now chairman of the DNC.

The DNC spent $6 million on the race, and it was the most expensive race the Democratic Governors Association had ever run.

It was a rematch of the McDonnell-Deeds battle for attorney general in 2005. After a long recount, McDonnell won by 323 votes.

This year’s race took a turn when the Washington Post unearthed McDonnell’s college thesis that Deeds used to paint the Republican as out of step with the mainstream.

But voters tired of that theme quickly and turned to McDonnell in the final weeks of the race thanks in part to the lousy economy.

Former DNC Chairman Howard Dean told TPMDC that Deeds “just did not run the kind of campaign we’d all hoped for,” in part because he was a surprise winner of the primary.

“He had a lot of ground to make up in terms of finances,” Dean said.

Late update: CNN is reporting that Deeds has called McDonnell to concede, and McDonnell will give a victory speech at 9:30.