Turns out, reports of high turnout were greatly exaggerated. With beautiful fall weather on Tuesday, 1,973,971 voters, or just under 40% of those registered, went to the polls. That compares unfavorably (especially when you figure the electorate has grown) to 2005 when slightly over 2 million voters, or 45% cast ballots. In 1985 when major flooding affected the western areas of the state, the turnout was 53%. In short, turnout in 2009 was the lowest for a gubernatorial race in 40 years. What is obvious is that the Republican base was much more motivated to vote, while many Democrats must have spent the day basking in the warm sunshine.
Creigh Deeds did well with African-American voters who went to the polls, getting almost 93% of their votes. But, African-Americans sat this one out compared to 2008 and the 2005 gubernatorial race. Turnout among African-American voters declined by more than 10% when compared to 2005. Apparently President Obama's coattails are pretty short when he is not on the ballot.
Political parties know that GOTV is essential to winning, but the dilemma is how to actually turn out voters committed to the party's candidates. A unified and hungry Virginia (and NJ) GOP won the GOTV ground game big time resulting in solid wins. Democrats, with a more muddled message and less unified electorate, lost the battle not only for independents, but in getting their own base to the polls. In the special congressional election in NY, it was the GOP who was divided... and lost.