Mark Warner, member of the United States Senate from Virginia since 2009. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I enjoy reading about happenings outside the beltway. I have lived inside the beltway for over 50 years, and sometimes we think everyone is paying attention to national politics the way most of us “inside the beltway” types do. Chris Cillizia of the Washington Post writes in today’s Post that social issues are not as important to national politics, as seen from the average ‘outside the beltway’ voter viewpoint, as it appears here in the Washington DC area. According to the polls, says Cillizia, and despite the late night pundits, most voters will not decide on their choice for president next fall based on abortion, contraception, bullying, or dogs. As James Carville pointed out in the first Clinton run for president, “It’s the economy, stupid.”
Furthermore, the election will be decided by about 15 percent of voters. This is because the rest of the voters are already committed to one candidate or the other, the candidates are tied, and the dedicated are not likely to change their vote. So it all comes down to Independent voters.
The rhetoric about social issues is designed to rally the base according to most pols. Independent voters are not persuaded by propaganda from either side. In fact, Cillizia says, 90 percent of the public does not care what Mitt Romney did when he was fifteen (in the 1960s, he sat on and cut the hair of a boy he saw as a “hippie.”)
The other point is that because the electoral college decides who wins (remember Bush vs Gore?) the election comes down to several swing states. Virginia is just one of those seven or so swing states. The destiny of Virginia in the next election boils down to the northern Virginia area known as NOVA, which includes the counties of Arlington, Fairfax, Fauquier, and Loudon, and the cities of Alexandria, Falls Church, and Fairfax. Within this cluster, Fairfax County has the largest population, and is the least predictable.
Fairfax has swung left and right in recent years (voting for both Bush and Obama). Fairfax is the home of the CIA and Fortune 500 companies, and it has a large multiethnic population, but it also boasts a fairly well-off population of millionaires of Korean, Vietnamese, Asian Indian, Arabic, and others. Many of these folks made their millions the hard way, by running small businesses. They care about the economy and other fiscal issues, and they don’t want their taxes raised.
The situation explains why the “brave” men and women in Congress and Mr Obama will wait until after the election to decide the fate of the Bush tax cuts. Oh, did I mention that many Republicans and Bush supporters still live in Fairfax County?
Fairfax County has lost about 3500 registered voters since the last presidential election according to one news source (Karl Rove http://www.rove.com/appearances/1689). These voters were probably folks who lost their homes in the ‘Great Recession’ and many of them came from socio-economic backgrounds that favored Democrats.
The fact that our state legislature turned Republican in the last election, and our governor, lt. governor, and attorney general are all Republicans is a clue as to how Virginia has been moving politically in recent years. In all the years I have lived here, I have never seen Virgina so conservative. (Remember, Virginia elected the first Black governor, Governor Wilder back in the 1970s.)
Our Blue Dog Senator Mark Warner (D) is not running for re-election in the fall, but former governor, Tim Kaine (D), is running for the seat Jim Webb (D) is vacating. At present, Kaine and his opponent former Senator George Allen (R) are tied for the job.
I was a Democrat for years, but usually split my ticket for local elections. I have come to think of myself as an Independent in recent years because I honestly don’t know how I will vote in the fall. I want to vote for Obama, but the Dodd-Frank law and the Health Care Act were passed without much input from fiscally responsible Virginia Republicans like Eric Cantor, and that bothers me. As a result, some things that should have been included, like tort reform, were overlooked. Also, I don’t think we need any new unfunded programs. Expecting the “rich” who already pay 50% of all taxes to up their contribution won’t work either. Thus, I don’t like either of the aforementioned laws as they stand. However, mend them, don’t end them, I say.
The deciding factor for me will probably be my loyalty to Mark Warner (who mostly shares my views). Warner is a fiscal conservative and former business man, and was the best governor Virginia ever had. He is also campaigning for Kaine. Left-wing Democrats tried to stop Warner when he ran for the office of governor, and they really tick me off. I am no longer a knee-jerk Liberal.
Although he currently supports Mr. Obama, Warner is a friend to Mitt Romney. Warner always says the right thing…this week it was “stop attacking private equity firms like Bain Capital.”
Who knows which way the cookie crumbles, but social issues don’t matter as much as taxes, the economy, coal and off-shore oil development to most Virginians.