In 2001, Mark Warner won the 3rd, 4th, 5th, 8th, 9th and 11th districts on his way to beating Mark Earley by 96,943 votes. He barely lost the 2nd, 6th (yes, he had 49.1% in the 6th) and 1st.
In 2004, John Kerry only won the 3rd and the 8th districts and lost to George W. Bush by 262,217 votes. Kerry barely lost the 11th (49.7%), but was not even close anywhere else.
In 2005, Tim Kaine won the 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 8th, 10th and 11th districts and beat Jerry Kilgore by 111,615 votes. Kaine's 49.3% in the 4th was the only other district that was close.
In 2006, Jim Webb broke yet another rule by only winning the 3rd, 8th, 10th and 11th districts, though he had 48.3% in the 2nd. Webb beat Allen by 9,329 votes, however, because he beat Kaine's margin in the 8th district by 13,000 votes. Absent a "macaca" moment, Webb would have lost because he did not win enough congressional districts.
In 2008, Barack Obama made history by winning Virginia, but he only won, you guessed it, six congressional districts: the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 8th, 10th and 11th. He also had 48.8% in the 5th and 48.1% in the 1st.
Obama won Virginia by 246,527 votes, but 64% of his win margin came from one district, the 3rd, where he beat McCain by 157,573 votes! (Let the record show that no other Democrat has even received 157,573 votes in the 3rd, let alone have a margin that large.)
So I don't want to hear Democrats, especially the three white boys running for governor, talk about Virginia being a blue state. First, we're not a state. Second, Obama's win was an outlier, and will not be replicated by these three gentlemen.
A typical Democratic margin in the 3rd district in a non-presidential year is about 60,000 votes. An 80,000 vote margin in the 8th is very good. A 25,000 vote margin in the 11th is feasible. Those are the only congressional districts Democrats reliably win.
A successful Democratic candidate, therefore, must do threee things. First, maintain or expand the 165,000 vote margin in the 3rd, 8th and 11th district. Second, win three of the following districts: the 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th and 10th. Third, keep the Republican margin in the 6th, 7th and 9th to under 165,000.
Mark Warner did this well in 2001, with his 44.4% in the 7th being his worst showing. Kaine substantially improved on Warner's numbers in the 8th and 10th, but slipped in the 9th (43.8%). Webb flat-out failed and only won due to the 8th district.
I think Creigh Deeds can best emulate the Warner/Kaine model by winning the 3rd, 5th, 8th, 9th, 10th and 11th districts while keeping Bob McDonnell's margins low in rural areas (the 1st, 4th, 6th and 7th). I don't think any Democrat wins the 2nd against McDonnell, and Deeds did better in the 9th than in the 2nd in 2005.
I see Moran winning the 3rd, 8th, 10th and 11th districts, but falling short in the 2nd and 5th. I also don't see how he can hold McDonnell's margins in districts like the 1st, 4th, 6th and 7th.
I see McAuliffe winning the 3rd, 8th and 11th, running close in the 10th, and being hammered everywhere else.