Not Larry Sabato and GOPHokie are talking about something close to my heart, the Roanoke Valley. NLS looks at voter data that shows a growing Republican trend in the greater Roanoke region, which he defines as Roanoke city, Roanoke county, Salem city, Botetourt county, Franklin county, and Craig county. While the trend did not benefit Jerry Kilgore as much as one might have thought, it seems that the pivot point between the Shenandoah Valley and the Great Southwest is growing redder while NoVa gets bluer.
GOPHokie says a strong independent streak in the region is one reason why Kilgore couldn't replicate Bush's success in the area, but that local races confirm the trend evident in the Presidential numbers.
While I wouldn't rely entirely on the '04 numbers as evidence of Republican strength in the region, I think they are probably generally accurate. However the differences between the vote counts for Bush and Kilgore simply confirm that each campaign, and candidate, is different and the GOP can't expect to throw any name out there and win.
As far as the reasons for Kilgore's performance, that is less obvious. Certainly the dreaded SWVA accent probably wasn't as much of a turn-off in Roanoke as it might have been in NoVa, so that should indicate that the sound of Kilgore's voice probably wasn't much of issue in the race. Instead, I think the results show that most residents of the Roanoke Valley are generally happy with their quality of life. Just like voters were wary of changing horses midstream in the War on Terror in '04, they were equally wary of switching teams on the state level in the midst of relatively good times in the Commonwealth. While Kilgore did win the region, increasing on Mark Early's totals, that indicates only the strength of the GOP base in the Roanoke Valley, while the margin indicates the Kilgore campaign's failure to convince swing voters that their candidate would be better at continuing the good times than his opponent.
By the way, if any of you disgruntled NoVa GOPers are considering a move to the Roanoke Valley based on recent election results, we'd prefer you just stay where you are. We don't need NoVa creeping any farther south.