The black vote could be the difference in Virginia if President Barack Obama is to carry the swing state and march to a second term in the White House.
Obama became the first Democratic presidential candidate to win the state since 1964 when he bested John McCain four years ago, but he will need to galvanize African-American turnout at the polls on Nov. 6 if he is to do so again.
And it just might happen.
Campaigning in Northern Virginia on Friday, Obama was quick to highlight the new jobs numbers that came out earlier that morning, showing unemployment at its lowest rate since he entered office.
But if Obama is to again win the Old Dominion State, it may not be because of his policies, but rather changing demographics that are reshaping Virginia, particularly its growth in Latinos and liberal-leaning people who work in Washington, D.C., but live in Northern Virginia.
Here’s a closer look at the state:
1. Northern Virginia: Obama’s America?
Buoyed by a strong defense, engineering and contracting sectors, this densely-populated region has been able to whether the recession better than many other swing states. While the national unemployment rate hovers around 8 percent, the rate in Virginia is now at 5.9 percent. The black unemployment rate nationally is more than 13 percent, but it’s about three points lower in Virginia.
The economy is particularly strong in Northern Virginia. The president won the counties surrounding the nation’s capital by huge margins four years ago and is likely to repeat that this year.
Typically much more diverse and educated than the many other rural parts of the state, Northern Virginia has expanded further south as far as Fredericksburg to help Obama carry Virginia in 2008, the first time a Democrat had done so Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964.
2. Hampton Roads: The Base
With historically black universities from Hampton to Norfolk State University and a huge black population, the question in this region is less about people supporting Obama than making sure they turn out to vote on Election Day.
3. The Power of Numbers: The Spread of the Black Vote
Virginia currently holds 13 electoral votes, representing 8,096,604 citizens. Just under one-fifth at 19.8 percent of the population is African-American, about seven points larger than the national average. This is another major advantage for the president.