McCain’s Lead Dwindles as Polls Close in Virginia

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The last time Virginia’s electoral votes went to a Democratic presidential candidate was 1964, when Lyndon Johnson carried the state in his nationwide landslide election. With its polls closing at 7:00 p.m. — among the first to finish in the country — Virginia is an early sign of Republican John McCain’s ability to hold onto red states and stand any chance of beating Barack Obama.

Turnout was phenomenally high throughout Virginia. Democratic enclaves in Richmond and the Tidewater coastal region reported hundreds of people in line as polls opened. Similar crowds voted in northern Virginia, which has a mix of Republican and Democratic leaning areas, as well as in conservative Republican strongholds in the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia’s west.

Before 8:30 p.m., the Associated Press was reporting that Mark Warner, a Democrat and a former Virginia governor, had easily won the Senate seat held by retiring Republican Senator John Warner (no relation). Mark Warner defeated Republican Jim Gilmore, himself a former governor.

The tally of the presidential contest for Virginia’s 13 electoral votes would be more drawn out. Though polls closed at 7:00 p.m., voters already standing in line at that time would be allowed to cast their ballots. That would delay some precinct reports, especially urban precincts, which tend to favor Obama.

At 7:16 p.m., the Virginia State Board of Elections posted that seven-tenths of 1% of the precincts had reported: McCain was ahead 61% to 38% over Obama. By 7:23 P.M., 2% of precincts were in, and McCain’s lead had slipped to 58% to 41%.

According to the Roanoke Times, early returns were mainly coming from heavily Republican counties. At 7:30 p.m., results for 5.1% of the precincts showed McCain on top 56% to 43%. Fully 8.0% of the precincts were in at 7:37 p.m., and 12% had reported by 7:44 p.m., with McCain holding his 56% to 43% lead at both points in time. At 7:51 p.m., 16% of precincts had finished counting, with McCain ahead 55% to 44%. By 7:58 p.m., 26% of precincts had reported, and McCain had 53% over Obama’s 43%. That milestone represented 14% of active voters.

After 8 p.m., election results kept pouring in, and McCain’s lead over Obama began dissolving. At 8:05 p.m., McCain led 54% to 43%, with 30% of precincts reporting for 17% of active voters.

At 8:12 p.m., McCain led 53% to 44%, with 33% of precincts reporting for 20% of active voters. Seven minutes later, McCain led 53% to 46%, with 38% of precincts reporting for 22.5% of active voters.

By a little after 8:30 p.m., McCain led 52% to 47%, with 46% of precincts reporting for 28.5% of active voters. Ten minutes later, McCain led 52% to 47%, with 50% of precincts reporting for 31% of active voters.

By 9:01 p.m., McCain led 50% to 48%, with 59% of precincts reporting for 38% of active voters. Closer to 10 p.m., ABC reported an even tighter race, with McCain and Obama holding 50% of

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