“Virginia has changed massively over the past several election cycles,” said Stephen Farnsworth, a political scientist at the University of Mary Washington. “If Donald Trump had a time machine and could go back to 2000, he’d have an easier time in Virginia.”
In 2001, Mark Warner, running as a Democrat for governor, won nearly 30 rural counties in Southside and Southwest Virginia that have since turned into the state’s most Republican communities. Warner lost all of those counties when he ran for re-election as senator in 2014.
“For many people, the Virginia they grew up in is not the Virginia they see now,” Farnsworth said. That’s been a key element in Trump’s support, especially in those pockets of the state, like the counties where coal is no longer king and textile mills have shut down, that have missed out on the state’s general prosperity.