The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
Virginia is among key toss-up states
BY CHELYEN DAVIS
It’s finally Election Day.
That means the phone calls and ads are winding down—all that’s left is to vote, and then settle in to watch the returns.
In Virginia, voters will have not only the presidential race to vote on, but a U.S. Senate race, congressional races and two constitutional amendments, plus local races in some areas.
The drama will be at the top of the ticket, with the presidential and Senate races, both of which are extremely tight in Virginia.
It’s no secret to any Virginian with a landline phone or a TV that this is a toss-up state that both presidential campaigns badly want to win.
Virginians have been bombarded with phone calls and TV ads as both sides—and numerous outside groups—seek to influence votes here.
Republican and Democratic presidential and vice presidential candidates have made appearances here in the campaign’s crucial last days. President Barack Obama held a rally in Prince William County Saturday night, while Vice President Joe Biden was back in Richmond on Monday. Meanwhile, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney held a rally in Newport News Sunday night and two more in Lynchburg and Fairfax Monday. Running mate Paul Ryan was in Richmond Saturday afternoon.
Being a too-close-to-call state going into Election Day is a relatively new status for Virginia. Before ending up in Obama’s column in 2008, Virginia hadn’t supported a Democratic presidential candidate since 1964.
Republicans hold eight of Virginia’s congressional seats while Democrats have three. Political observers don’t expect to see much change to that on election night.
Republicans also control both houses of the General Assembly and the governor’s mansion. But Democrats held the governorship from 2002 to 2010 and grabbed the state Senate for a four-year stint that ended last year.
So while Virginia tends to lean conservative, it’s not utterly red.
Polls indicate Virginia could go either way on Tuesday. University of Virginia political pundit Larry Sabato, in his “Crystal Ball” election analysis released Monday, predicted Virginia’s vote would go to Romney but said on Twitter that Virginia was his “least certain” prediction, arrived at through a coin flip, and that Obama could also win the state.
Sabato said the three least-predictable states tonight will be Virginia, Colorado and New Hampshire.
So how can you figure out what’s going on in Virginia tonight as you watch election returns?
In Virginia, polls close at 7, the first of the East Coast battleground states to do so.
To win, Obama will need to turn out his supporters in Northern Virginia, Hampton Roads and cities such as Richmond and Norfolk. Virginia’s cities tend to be Democratic while rural and suburban areas lean Republican. Obama needs big numbers in the Democratic areas of Northern Virginia—Arlington, Alexandria, Fairfax—and Hampton Roads.
In 2008, Obama won six of Virginia’s 11 congressional districts—some were close, like the 2nd District, which includes Virginia Beach and Norfolk, and where Obama got 50 percent of the vote to Republican John McCain’s 48 percent.
Others, like the 3rd District—the state’s only majority-minority congressional district—were by large margins; Obama won the 3rd in 2008 with 75 percent of the vote.
A Romney win will rely on running up the numbers in suburban counties and rural areas such as Southwest Virginia and the Shenandoah Valley. McCain in 2008 won five of the state’s congressional districts and put up predictably large numbers in Southwest Virginia’s 9th District, where Obama didn’t crack 40 percent of the vote.
Given how close the race seems to be in Virginia, the state might not be called decisively for a candidate until late in the evening.
It could also be a late night for Virginia’s Senate candidates.
The race between Democrat Tim Kaine and Republican George Allen has been neck-and-neck for more than a year, although recent polls have indicated Kaine may be gaining an edge.
It’s also the most expensive Senate race in the country, according to data tracking by the Center for Responsive Politics. The CRP’s compilation of federal campaign finance filings in the race shows that the candidates plus outside groups together spent more than $82 million up to Oct. 17, the last time the candidates filed full reports. More than 60 percent—$50 million—has been from outside groups.
Both Kaine and Allen, who both served as governor and are well-known in the state, have made no bones about their ties to their presidential candidates, appearing with them at rallies.
Kaine was at a Prince William County rally for Obama late Saturday, while Allen joined Romney’s tours Monday and last Thursday around Virginia.
Both Senate candidates will feel some coattail effect from the top of the ticket—a strong turnout for either presidential candidate helps his party’s down-ticket candidates.
Polls in Virginia are open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Any voter in line to vote at 7 p.m. must be allowed to vote.
This year the state has added new identification rules for voting, but is not among the states that requires a photo ID. To ensure that all voters have ID, the state sent out new voter registration cards to all registered voters. But acceptable identification also includes a concealed weapons permit, student ID card, utility bills with your name and address, and other items. The full list is online at: sbe.state.va.us.need www in that address or it doesn’t work
Chelyen Davis: 540/368-5028