STERLING, VA- Due to my regular work schedule, I ended up being deployed to the key battleground state of Virginia in lieu of New Hampshire. Just as the media obsessed over Ohio four years ago, and Florida another four years prior, the Old Dominion state has been the Red state deigned most likely to flip Blue in 2008 for no particular reason on the national level aside from the fact Obama did well there in its primary mainly because of its large black population.
Now it is true Virginia has been kind to the Democrats on the state and non-presidential federal levels. Republicans have not elected governor there since 1997 and the GOP’s loss of what was considered a safe US Senate seat in 2006 and the probable loss of the other slot on Tuesday.
Yet Virginia has reliable gone to the GOP in presidential elections, giving George W. Bush eight-point margins in both of his campaigns. So why is 2008 different?
The polls in general have not been kind to McCain since the financial crisis, with Virginia not being an exception. Combined by Obama’s tremendous campaign finance advantage, the numbers in Virginia have fluctuated between 7 and 3 point margins in the Democratic nominee’s favor.
The biggest sore for the GOP in Virginia is its populous northern portion that borders Washington. President Bush averaged 32% of the vote in Arlington County and Alexandria and lost Fairfax County by a large, though relatively more modest margin.
For the Democrats, victory is predicated simply on stopping McCain from running the swing state table based off of the Bush-Gore 2000 electoral map as Obama needs to only win one of the Bush 2000 states, other than New Hampshire, to capture the White House. Short of a Keystone State miracle, Virginia would be impossible to replace in the Republican column.
While doing some grassroots campaigning for McCain-Palin in an area near Dulles International, I came across at least four Obama campaign squads in the neighborhood. Now having been a candidate for office on a few occasions, I can say that it was typically rare to cross paths with the opposition. In fact, you’re just as likely to run into Mormon missionaries as you are the other side.
For a presidential election, it’s almost unfathomable to run into rival activists unless you’re in New Hampshire. Yet there they were, teachers, retirees and people too young to vote out hustling for Obama, indicating that McCain is getting seriously out-muscled on the streets in Virginia, something that was officially confirmed by a McCain operative back at the headquarters.
The good news is that McCain has closed the gap in Virginia and that while Obama’s people from other states have converged on Virginia, most of the McCain supporters I saw busily dialing for votes and knocking on doors were locals. Only a handful of us were from out of state. Just as the glut of Maine and Massachusetts license plates at Bush’s New Hampshire rallies in 2000 was an omen of bad forthcoming results for the Texas governor then, a strong indigenous presence is a good sign for McCain in Virginia.