There’s no microtargeting magic — when you win you do better everywhere.
A funny thing happened on the way to Ralph Northam getting elected governor of Virginia: He improved on Hillary Clinton’s margin of victory in an already-blue state despite running a campaign that struck most observers as somewhere between lame and disastrous. And even more striking is how he put his coalition together — he just did better than she did.
He did better in the suburbs of Washington, DC, but also better in the small cities of Richmond and Norfolk and in their suburbs. But he also did better in the small swath of Appalachia that cuts through Virginia. And he did better in the small, rural part of the state that constitutes the Southern end of the Delmarva Peninsula. The New York Times’s excellent map of the vote switch shows that Northam didn’t literally do better in every single precinct, but he did do better in the clear majority of them and in most regions of the state.
The lesson here is that most of the broad public handwringing about Democratic Party geographic and demographic targeting is misguided. Actual candidate and campaign professionals do need to make some fine-grained decisions about how to allocate resources. But much of the conversation about “winning back” working-class white voters versus pursuing new “Panera Democrats” in upscale suburbs is misguided.
Trying to win in the Sunbelt versus trying to win in the Rust Belt is a false dichotomy. So is trying to mobilize people of color versus trying to make inroads in rural white areas. Nobody is equally popular everywhere and nobody ever will be. But winning campaigns tend to just do better in all kinds of places and with all kinds of voters than losing ones.