The dynamics of the currently diverse nature of voting patterns in northern Virginian neighborhoods are addressed in a great article in Thursday’s Washington Post. The piece focuses on two households located in McLean, both alike in personal goals and values, but diametrically opposite in political beliefs. One neighbor adamantly supports Republican held views while the other favors Democratic policies with equal devotion. While the heart of the article demonstrates the supremacy of civil discourse during this tough campaign, it also highlights how tight of a race the candidate’s face in Virginia. Blocks of McLean are literally divided down the middle with their support of either President Barack Obama or former Governor Mitt Romney.
The simple fact that northern Virginia, labeled by some conservatives as Occupied Virginia, is so divided could indicate that Romney will take the state. He will certainly garner support from the southern counties and the divisive nature of the northern regions will only help the Republican challenger. Ipsos/Reuters released a poll on Thursday indicating that Obama leads Romney by 5%, though this data seems generous to the incumbent based on aggregate data of recent polls in the state.
Real Clear Politics measures the race to be 0.5% in Romney’s favor, taking the averages of seven Virginia polls over the past 10 days. Two of the polls were tied; two leaned Obama by two and four points; three had Romney leading by two and five points. Virginia had voted Republican every cycle since 1964 until 2008 when Obama won 53% of the popular vote. The state has not voted Democrat in two successive presidential elections since Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman. Though this historical data may not be able to forecast the election four days from now, it shows that Obama taking the state in 2008 was a significant change of course.
When comparing the 2008 polls to today’s numbers, the results are not optimistic for the president. In late October four years ago, Obama led Senator John McCain by an average of 6.5% and won in November by 6.3 percent with strong support in the populous counties of Arlington, Fairfax — where McLean is located — and Loudon, all part of northern Virginia. Support for Obama has most likely ebbed somewhat in these counties and without energetic showings in northern Virginia, Obama will have a difficult time retaining the state.
A University of Virginia poll released Thursday puts the president up significantly in the central Virginia counties of Charlottesville and Ablemarle with Obama showing 49 percent support to Romney’s 33%. However, when these typically liberal leaning counties are removed from the rest of central Virginia, the number flip completely: Romney takes 49% to Obama’s 33%.
Accordingly, Romney should not take Virginia for granted, which is why its surprising to see him campaigning in Pennsylvania, however short-lived. The Romney election team has appropriately traveled all over Virginia throughout the campaign, especially along the eastern portion of the state, but is now spending time and money in Pennsylvania. While this strategy could be an attempt to project confidence, it jeopardizes Romney’s slight lead in Virginia, especially as Obama might gain a small bump due to positive feedback from the administration’s response to the hurricane. Romney and vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan are scheduled at rallies in Richmond and Fairfax County over the next three days, showing the team’s understanding that next to Florida, Virginia is crucial. It would be wise to maintain this disciplined focus over the next few days on winning Virginia’s 13 electoral votes.