Virginia’s 10th Is No Guarantee for Democrats

The numbers say 10th District Rep. Barbara Comstock (R) is in for a rough election night.

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton won the District by nearly 10 points in 2016, making Comstock the sole Republican member of the Virginia delegation to hold a seat Clinton won. Democratic gubernatorial nominee Ralph Northam won it by more than 12 points in 2017, and the carnage extended to a half dozen Republican seats in the House of Delegates that “touched at least part” of the 10th.

That last bit is telling. Democrats’ 2017 gains in the state legislature came from flipping Republican incumbents out of seats Clinton won. They plan to do the same nationally this November. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has targeted the 10th since late last year. The committee is ready to get behind Comstock’s eventual challenger, and an array of PACs and interest groups likely will follow.

And let’s not forget that before any of that fun starts, Comstock must first contend with a gadfly challenge from Shak Hill in the June 12 primary.

Add it all up, and Comstock looks vulnerable. A strong, well-funded challenger who runs a solid race with few mistakes should be able to win. Perhaps easily.

Except we’ve been near this neighborhood before — and Comstock emerged victorious.

Yes, the trends are against her. But consider that in 2016, Comstock outperformed Donald Trump by almost 40,000 votes and Clinton by 100.

A fluke, perhaps? Not so much. Comstock’s former boss, longtime 10th District Rep. Frank Wolf, regularly outperformed candidates running statewide at the same time he was seeking reelection.

In his last election in 2012, for example, Wolf won with 58 percent of the vote, easily outpacing Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and Sen. Tim Kaine (D), each of whom also won the 10th.

But Comstock is no Wolf, and the 10th District has changed — even since her first congressional win in 2014.

One thing that hasn’t changed all that much is Comstock, who has shown she is a formidable campaigner. A week ago, Kyle Kondik, managing editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball, wrote:

One of the GOP advantages in this election is that they still have a number of proven incumbents running in Clinton-won districts [including Virginia’s 10th District] … even big waves don’t wash away all of the other side’s most vulnerable incumbents, and a big wave is not guaranteed anyway.

In other words, the 10th isn’t a gimmie for the Democrats.

Continue reading here.

See also Eliminating Headwinds in the 10th, It’s Time for Hill to Withdraw.