Examining data more closely suggests strongly that Democrats were more energized than Republicans in 2017. The above graph shows changes in turnout from 2016 to 2017 as it relates to the share of a county or independent city that voted for Democratic Ralph Northam as a share of the two-party vote. In general, the more a place voted for Northam, the smaller the decline in turnout from the presidential election.
Analysis of the Virginia results does not suggest a bright future for Republicans. Democrats are doing well in fast-growing places and Republicans in shrinking places. This first map shows which counties are growing fastest.
Source: Cooper Center.
Suburban areas continue to show strong growth. In the DC suburbs, Loudoun and Prince William Counties, along with Alexandria and Arlington are on pace for greater than 10% growth. The same is true in the Richmond, Charlottesville, and Fredericksburg areas, as well as Chesapeake and Suffolk Counties outside of Norfolk and Virginia Beach. Slow growth areas are centered in more rural Appalachian and Southside Virginia.
Next up, a map that shows where Northam and Gillespie each made gains relative to 2013.
Source: Washington Post.
Notice that the blue is concentrated primarily in almost the exact same fast-growing areas. In contrast, places with declining industries where people leave are trending Republican. Not too surprising when one considers that the Trump coalition was based on people who fear change and look to the future with foreboding.
It is a fascinating shift, however, as Republicans used to do incredibly well in precisely the sort of exurbs that are among the fastest growing places in the state. Twenty years ago, no one would have imagined that places like Henrico (Richmond suburbs) along with Prince William and Loudoun would anchor Democratic victories. Indeed, Republicans once expected growth in these areas to carry them to power. Not any more.
The shifts are even more dismal if one compares 2017 to the presidential election:
Source: New York Times.