Wolf’s Retirement Moves Virginia’s 10th District from Safe to Lean Republican

Nathan L. Gonzales December 17, 2013 · 4:33 PM EDT

Republican Frank Wolf’s retirement gives Democrats an opportunity to win Virginia’s 10th District next year. 

Democratic strategists have had their eye on the Northern Virginia seat, but the 17-term congressman has been a considerable roadblock in their efforts to take over the seat.

On paper, the district is competitive, but still slightly Republican after redistricting.

Mitt Romney won the district, 50 percent to 49 percent, in 2012, outperforming his statewide total by about three points. In 2008, Sen. Barack Obama won the district 52 percent to 48 percent, but John McCain outperformed his statewide showing by about two points in the district. And in 2004, President George W. Bush won the district 57 percent to 42 percent.

The last round of redistricting made the 10th district slightly more Republican than it had been. For example, Obama won the 10th District 53 percent to 46 percent in 2008 under the old district boundaries. And President Bush’s margin was 11 points under the old lines and 15 points with the current boundaries.

Bloomberg’s Greg Giroux crunched the numbers for the 10th District from the most recent statewide elections. Republican Ken Cuccinelli carried the district narrowly, 48 percent to 47 percent, over Democrat Terry McAuliffe in the gubernatorial race. Republican Mark Obenshain and Democrat Mark Herring fought to a near draw in race for attorney general. Obenshain won the 10th by 72 votes before the recount. And Democrat Ralph Northam carried the 10th District, 52 percent to 48 percent, over polarizing Republican E.W. Jackson. Northam won by over 10 points statewide.

Nearly a handful of Democrats were running before Wolf made his announcement, but now that he’s gone, aspiring politicians on both sides of the aisle will certainly take a fresh look at the race. Roll Call has some initial potential names here

Wolf’s retirement certainly shakes up the race, and there will be plenty of uncertainty until the candidate fields get sorted out. But given the current shape of the national political environment, the general tendencies of midterms and the very slight red hue of the district, we regard it as a mistake to see the race initially as a pure toss-up. Instead, we are changing the Rothenberg Political Report rating of the race from Safe Republican to Lean Republican. Obviously, we will reassess that preliminary evaluation as events warrant.