Sunday, November 04, 2012
National eyes watching Virginia races
Voters will soon commit to the presidential and Congressional campaigns that poured tens of millions of dollars into the state.
The latest from our Blue Ridge Caucus politics blog
- Three questions coming out of the Republican convention
- Cuccinelli and team hit Washington at Roanoke rally
From The Roanoke Times
Appearances by the presidential tickets this year from the Shenandoah Valley and west
- May 12 Mitt Romney delivers the commencement address at Liberty University.
- June 26 Romney holds campaign rally at Carter Machinery in Salem.
- July 13 President Barack Obama speaks at campaign rally in front of historic Fire Station No. 1 in Roanoke.
- Aug. 14 Vice President Joe Biden speaks at Wytheville rally during two-day Virginia campaign swing.
- Aug. 15 Biden speaks at campaign rally at Virginia Tech.
- Aug. 22 GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan headlines rally at Northwest Hardware in Roanoke.
- Sept. 14 Ryan holds rally in Harrisonburg and visits Hotel Roanoke & Conference Center for a fundraiser.
- Oct. 4 One day after the first presidential debate, Romney and Ryan lead rally in Fishersville.
- Oct. 5 Romney campaigns at Carter Machinery in Abingdon.
- Oct. 8 Romney delivers foreign policy speech at Virginia Military Institute, later drops by Fairfield Elementary School in Rockbridge County.
- Oct. 25 Ryan holds rally in Bristol.
- Oct. 27 Biden holds rally in Lynchburg.
- Nov. 1 Romney holds rally at Integrity Windows in the Bonsack area of Roanoke County.
RICHMOND — They have seen President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney come to their state and ask for their votes.
They have heard from two former governors who want to be their next United States senator.
And they have been subjected to an unprecedented flood of negative television ads that cost the candidates, political committees and special interest groups tens of millions of dollars in this state alone.
On Tuesday, Virginia voters will have the last word in an election unlike any the state has seen. And their decisions could go a long way toward determining who occupies the White House and which party controls the U.S. Senate.
Through the final weekend of the presidential campaign, Virginia has remained one of the key battleground states on the electoral map. Romney blitzed the state on Thursday, holding campaign events in Roanoke County, Caroline County and Virginia Beach. He's scheduled to return to Virginia tonight for a rally in Newport News and make a Monday swing that will include a stop in Lynchburg. Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan held an airport rally Saturday in Richmond.
Obama campaigned in the state Saturday, appearing with former President Bill Clinton in Prince William County. Vice President Joe Biden is scheduled to campaign in the state on Monday.
"This is going to be a close race in Virginia," said Gov. Bob McDonnell, a top national surrogate for Romney's campaign.
Obama carried Virginia in 2008, the first time since 1964 that a Democratic presidential candidate won here. But Republicans since have retooled and have waged an aggressive campaign for Virginia's 13 electoral votes.
Republicans acknowledge that Democrats had a more effective field operation in Virginia in 2008, especially in encouraging early absentee voting. The GOP has made early voting an integral part of its ground game this year, party officials said.
State Republican leaders said last week that party activists have been motivated both by a desire to dethrone Obama and by the attention Romney has lavished on Virginia in recent weeks.
"I was at the [Republican] National Convention. I saw it, I felt the energy building there,and it just continues to build and build out here," said Wendell Walker of Lynchburg, the chairman of the Republicans' 6th Congressional District Committee.
Since the first presidential debate on Oct. 3, Romney has held nine campaign rallies in the state and delivered a major foreign policy speech at Virginia Military Institute. Ryan also has made multiple visits to the state.
"It helps to motivate people the more and more you see a candidate," said Walker as he waited for Romney to speak in Roanoke County Thursday.
"It tells you one thing — the candidate cares and understands about the needs here in Virginia," Walker said. "Virginia is one of those pivotal states that's going to probably help decide this election next Tuesday."
Obama marked the symbolic kickoff of his campaign in May with rallies in Columbus, Ohio, and Richmond, underscoring the importance of the two battleground states. He became the first sitting president in 35 years to hold a public event in Roanoke when he campaigned in the city in July.
Democrats said the campaign organization that fueled Obama's 2008 Virginia victory remains strong. The Obama campaign has more than 60 field offices in the state. But Republicans question whether the Obama organization can muster the same enthusiasm with voters.
Asked last week if local Democrats appear as motivated as they were four years ago, Roanoke County Democratic Committee Chairman Brian Lang said, "Honestly, not quite."
But the reason has nothing to do with Obama, he said.
"In 08, we had eight years of George W. Bush motivating us," said Lang, who was attending a campaign event for Democratic Senate candidate Tim Kaine. "This time around, we've had a great president so we haven't had somebody to motivate us by getting us angry at them — not in the White House, anyway."
But, Lang said, "I'd say probably in just the last couple of weeks we've gotten a sense of energy that's close to what we had at the end of the '08 campaign."
The presidential election is not the only contest in Virginia on Tuesday. Voters also will cast ballots for the U.S. House of Representatives, with elections taking place in redrawn districts. And they will decide what may be the most fiercely fought U.S. Senate race in the country.
Kaine is battling former Sen. George Allen for the seat held by Democrat Jim Webb, who is retiring after one term. The two candidates, both well-known former governors, have raised more than $30 million between them. But that total is dwarfed by the staggering sums spent by outside groups trying to influence the contest.
Party committees, super PACs and groups that don't disclose their donors have poured more than $50 million into the Virginia Senate race, according to the Virginia Public Access Project. Only $4.1 million of that total has gone toward pro-Kaine or pro-Allen advertising.
Outside groups have spent more than $28 million attacking Kaine, and more than $18 million targeting Allen.
Kaine stopped by Roanoke County Democratic headquarters Thursday night with partymate U.S. Sen. Mark Warner to rally the party faithful for the final push to Election Day.
"The only thing better than the president and Tim winning is the campaign finally being over," Warner said.
Kaine, the former Democratic National Committee chairman, told supporters that negative ads failed to move the needle in public opinion polls and won't sway the few remaining undecided voters.
"It's a positive word from someone that they trust, that's what they're waiting for right now," Kaine said.
Kaine said he wants to join Warner in Washington and "add to the numbers of the common-ground caucus, the compromise and consensus caucus."
Allen also was in the region Thursday, introducing Romney at a rally at Integrity Windows in the Bonsack area of Roanoke County. Repeating a line he has used often during his campaign, Allen told the crowd: "I want to be Virginia's senator; my opponent wants to be President Obama's senator."
But, on Thursday, Allen was the Senate candidate grasping the coattails of his party's presidential nominee. During the Roanoke County rally, he stood just over Romney's shoulder as the former Massachusetts governor addressed the crowd.
Kaine and Allen have clear differences on the issues that have dominated the 2012 campaign. But no one would dispute one declaration Allen made about the election on Thursday.
"All America's going to be watching Virginia," he said.