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VoteCast: Kaine helped by voters who say US headed wrong way

November 7, 2018
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Voters cast their ballots at Robious Elementary School in Chesterfield, Va., on Tuesday, November 6, 2018. (Daniel Sangjib Min/Richmond Times-Dispatch via AP)

Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia won re-election over a firebrand Republican supporter of President Donald Trump with strong backing from voters who say the country is headed in the wrong direction, a wide-ranging survey of the electorate shows.

Kaine, a former governor and Hillary Clinton’s running mate in 2016, beat die-hard conservative Corey Stewart to retain the Senate seat he won in 2012. As voters elected members of the U.S. Senate and Congress in Tuesday’s midterm contests, AP VoteCast found that 6 in 10 of Virginia voters believed the country is headed down the wrong path, compared with 4 in 10 who deemed it to be on the right track.

The survey found those who considered health care, gun policy or the environment the top issues besetting the nation backed Kaine by lopsided margins of 7 in 10 voters — or more — against his rival.

Kaine had been heavily favored during the campaign against a rival who waged a fiery Trump-style attack campaign but ran largely bereft of any support from the White House or national Republicans next door in the nation’s capital.

Here’s a snapshot of who voted and why in Virginia, based on preliminary results from AP VoteCast, an innovative nationwide survey of about 139,000 voters and nonvoters — including 4,066 voters and 702 nonvoters in the state of Virginia — conducted for The Associated Press by NORC at the University of Chicago.

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RACE FOR THE SENATE

Kaine was about tied with Stewart among white voters. Whites with a college education preferred Kaine, and whites without a college degree were more likely to favor Stewart. Kaine had a sizable advantage among black voters and also led among Hispanic voters. Voters under 45 favored Kaine; those ages 45 and older were split.

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KEY HOUSE RACES

—Republican Rep. Barbara Comstock of Virginia was the first congressional incumbent to lose as her Northern Virginia district expressed continued dislike of Trump. Democratic state Sen. Jennifer Wexton won easily in the wealthy suburban district outside Washington, which Hillary Clinton had won by 10 percentage points. Comstock tried to emphasize her independence from Trump, but Wexton, a former prosecutor, portrayed the two-term incumbent as a Trump ally out of touch with the diverse, well-educated district.

—Democrat Abigail Spanberger defeated two-term Republican incumbent U.S. Rep. Dave Brat in Virginia’s 7th District Congressional race. Brat made history by upsetting former U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor four years ago. Now it was Spanberger scoring a dramatic win. A former CIA officer and political newcomer, Spanberger cast herself as a moderate and slammed Brat for being out of touch with voters in the district covering suburbs west of Richmond and rural areas. Brat, a former economics professor, touted the strong economy.

—Democrat Elaine Luria unseated Republican U.S. Rep. Scott Taylor in Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District. Luria’s win marked a swift change of heart in this traditionally Republican district on Virginia’s coast. Luria’s victory was likely boosted by antipathy toward President Donald Trump. National Democrats backed Luria. She had a military background vital for running in a district that’s home to the world’s largest Navy base and many veterans. Luria is a former Navy commander. Taylor is a former Navy SEAL.

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TOP ISSUE: HEALTH CARE

Health care was at the forefront of voters’ minds: Nearly a third of voters named it as the most important issue facing the nation in this year’s midterm elections. Others considered immigration (2 in 10), the economy (2 in 10) as top issues, trialed by gun policy and the environment.

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STATE OF THE ECONOMY

Voters have a positive view of the nation’s current economic outlook — more than 6 in 10 said the nation’s economy is good, compared with a third who said it’s not good.

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TRUMP FACTOR

For a third of Virginia voters, Trump was not a factor they considered while casting their votes. By comparison, a quarter said a reason for their vote was to express support for Trump, and 4 in 10 said they voted to express opposition to Trump.

A majority of voters in Virginia had negative views of Trump: about 6 in 10 said they disapprove of how he is handling his job as president, while 4 in 10 said they approve of Trump.

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CONTROL OF CONGRESS

Tuesday’s elections determined control of Congress in the final two years of Trump’s first term in office, and three quarters of Virginia voters said which party will hold control was very important as they considered their vote. A fifth of voters said it was somewhat important.

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STAYING AT HOME

In Virginia, 7 in 10 registered voters who chose not to vote Tuesday were younger than 45. A wide share of those who did not vote — 8 in 10 — did not have a college degree. About as many nonvoters were Democrats (one third) as Republicans (one third).

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AP VoteCast is a survey of the American electorate in all 50 states conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago for The Associated Press and Fox News. The survey of 4,066 voters and 702 nonvoters in Virginia was conducted Oct. 29 to Nov. 6, concluding as polls close on Election Day. It combines interviews in English or Spanish with a random sample of registered voters drawn from state voter files and self-identified registered voters selected from opt-in online panels. Participants in the probability-based portion of the survey were contacted by phone and mail, and had the opportunity to take the survey by phone or online. The margin of sampling error for voters is estimated to be plus or minus 1.9 percentage points. All surveys are subject to multiple sources of error, including from sampling, question wording and order, and nonresponse. Find more details about AP VoteCast’s methodology at http://www.ap.org/votecast.

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For AP’s complete coverage of the U.S. midterm elections: http://apne.ws/APPolitics

Associated Press writer Ben Finley in Norfolk, Virginia, contributed to this report.

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