I’m getting 2 numbers being reported for the crowd size: 8k and between 10-15k but either way this is a great crowd in the Battleground hotbed of Loudoun County on a 55 degree Wednesday night:
I’m getting 2 numbers being reported for the crowd size: 8k and between 10-15k but either way this is a great crowd in the Battleground hotbed of Loudoun County on a 55 degree Wednesday night:
I was raised in Maryland but even though it is South of the Mason-Dixon line (the traditional North-South dividing line), I always considered myself a Northerner (what can I say, no matter the topic, I like winning). The Washington Post heads even further down South and takes a look at the changing state of affairs in “rural” Virginia and the North-South divide within this important Battleground State:
There’s debate about where the South really begins. The Mason-Dixon Line? The Potomac? The Rappahannock? The “sweet tea line?” What’s certain is that, by the time you’ve reached David Lamb’s horse farm in Orange County, you’re there. Oakland Heights Farm offers riding lessons and holds rodeos in the splendid heart of the Piedmont, on Route 15 a couple of hours southwest of Washington. Lamb is a Civil War buff who says his side lost, and grouses about prickly Yankees who swoop in and buy huge tracts of land and put up fences. Ask him what being southern means, and he says, “You can show up and sit on my front porch and have a glass of iced tea with me.”
Southern hospitality isn’t about to disappear, but the intensity of American politics in this election season can make for awkward encounters and tricky relationships, to judge by dozens of interviews in recent days along Route 15 in Virginia. The north-south scenic byway offers a transect of the cultural fault line between Northern Virginia and what might be more traditionally defined as the South. Virginia has a long history as contested territory, and this year it’s a critical battleground state in the presidential election, with 13 electoral votes in the balance.
For a full generation, since the political realignment during the civil rights era, Republican presidential candidates had an apparent lock on the old Confederacy. [NOTE: this isn't true. Whomever won the South won the election and in 1976, 1992 and 1996 it was a Democrat] But Obama, boosted by support in the booming Northern Virginia suburbs — known among some unreconstructed southerners as Occupied Virginia — won the state four years ago and has enjoyed a small but steady lead in recent Virginia polls.
As a general rule, the true South is more conservative, and more friendly to Republican candidates. The only catch is that the South is changing, modernizing, diversifying. Crude electoral maps and broad-brush political analysis can miss the granular complexity of America’s political geography, because so many people have added to their list of inalienable rights the right to defy stereotypes. “The nature of the South is changing faster than the stereotypes are. Much of the South now looks like San Jose. Is it still southern?” asks John Shelton Reed, a retired professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina who has studied the cultural borders of the South. So where is the border, professor? “If I had to say, and I guess I do, I’d say just about the Rappahannock [River] when you’re going south,” he said. “When you get 50 miles from Washington, you’re probably in the South.”
Route 15 is the asphalt version of what was known long ago as the Carolina Road. The road crosses the Potomac at Point of Rocks, Md., and is just a two-lane country road when it reaches Lucketts, Va., in northern Loudoun County. Dominating the heart of Lucketts are a couple of antique stores, including Really Great Finds, where Carrie Sisk, 36, the retail manager, is a local and remembers when Loudoun County was just cow farms…Keep heading south, past Leesburg with its outlet stores, and you’ll see the antebellum plantation Oatlands, where preservationists are fighting to keep housing developments out of its viewshed. Oatlands says “South,” but the eye is drawn beyond the old grain silo to the rack of new housing on the distant hillside. Eventually you’ll see signs for the Winery at La Grange, which sits at the base of the Bull Run Mountains…Onward to Warrenton, which is now a suburb of Washington. “When I was a kid, Main Street was dirt,” says William Lawson, 75, a funeral director standing in the shade on Main…Tom Armstrong, 59, an arborist, pops out of the post office and says he remembers when this part of Virginia was rural and didn’t have many middle-class people, just the poor and the very rich. He likes the more multicultural feel of the area. He’ll vote for Romney, saying he doesn’t like the Democratic position on entitlements: “I really don’t think being a citizen of the United States entitles you to anything.” [I normally edit out partisan citizen quotes but that last one was too good to leave out. That's a man I want to have a drink with.]
Below Warrenton on Route 15, the landscape starts to change. There are fewer housing developments, and fewer just-built mansions that look like they sprouted in a pasture after a recent rain. You’re nearing the Rappahannock, an unofficial border, and now you see vintage motels, what used to be called motor courts, and the occasional old house being eaten by vines. A truck stop has a big sign out front: “BBQ World.” This is Quarles Truck Stop, where the manager is Donn Sachs, 63, a Tidewater Virginian who doesn’t feel he’s in the South when he’s this far north: “A lot of people don’t even know what grits are.” … Just a little ways ahead, in the hamlet of Opal, a sign on the right says, “Clark Bros — Guns.” It’s a gun shop with an outdoor shooting range in back. There’s a fiberglass bear, ferociously kitschy, on the roof. “This is kind of where it starts,” says owner Steve Clark, and he’s referring, of course, to the South.
The Rappahannock River
Now comes the Rappahannock River, which is shallow this far upstream. Last weekend some local African Americans reenacted an August 1862 flight to freedom, in which slaves crossed the river here to escape bondage and join retreating Union soldiers. Ed Dudley, a Verizon employee, has parked a van on the northern side of the river so he can work on a line that leads to a water gauge in the river…In downtown Culpeper, you’re probably in the South, though you’re really not that far from Washington, which spews cultural seeds into distant pastures. Along the fault line you might think yourself deep in Dixie, only to see signs for yoga lessons and a wine bar.
Halfway to Orange is a vintage roadside store, the Midway Country Market. The proprietors are an African American couple who spent years teaching school in the District before relocating. Bob and Mary Royster, both 65, have packed their market with antiques, old tools, vintage glass bottles, furniture. You can buy pigs’ feet marinating in a jar, and pickled eggs. This is where you can buy souse — “head cheese.” …Route 15 comes to Orange, where Jimmy Harris, 57, makes a purchase at a produce stand, and says he was a contractor until “the illegal immigrants put me out of business.” …Eventually Route 15 hits Interstate 64. Just before the interstate there’s a new shopping plaza, with a Wal-Mart and a Lowe’s. The place calls itself “The Shoppes at Spring Creek” — the kind of spelling that makes a southerner suspect that someone’s taking on airs. Beyond that is the village of Zion Crossroads. A man sells produce on the roadside. People trickle into the laundromat and the convenience store. William Sprouse, 55, a logger and tree culler, says he’s undecided this fall…Route 15 keeps going, of course, because remember, it was the Carolina Road. The conversation about where the South begins can safely come to an end at this point. People here know where they live.
In a number of posts I have pointed out how difficult it is for Mitt Romney to crack the Northern Virginia stranglehold Democrats and Obama have on Virginia’s most populous region. One of the best was a study on the voting trends of Fairfax County — Virginia’s most populous — demonstrating that since 1980 the Democrat % of vote has essentially doubled from 30.76% to 60.12% over the last 30 years. This change in voting is directly and causally correlated with the steady bipartisan increase in size of government over that period. Whether it be Reagan’s Defense build up, the folly of Clinton’s “era of Big Government is over” when it only grew (the economy simply grew faster), or George Bush overseeing the largest expansion in federal government since LBJ’s “Great Society”. The only thing Barack Obama did was take each of those expansions and accelerate them to ludicrous and unsustainable levels.
What does all of this have to do with populous and growing Northern Virginia and its lock on the Democrat vote? The New York Times Ross Douthat inadvertently lays out the reason which is the end result of a 30+ year expansion of the federal government where America is taxed more heavily while the imperial city of Washington reaps the benefits:
WHEN I moved to Washington, D.C., in 2002, you could sense that the nation’s capital had turned a corner after decades of decline. But the Washington of 10 years ago still looked basically like the city that had been scarred by riots in the 1960s and then emptied by white flight, with a prosperous northwest divided from a blighted south and east, and frontiers of gentrification that weren’t that many blocks from the Capitol itself.
No doubt there were boomtowns in the 19th-century Wild West that changed faster than D.C. did over the ensuing decade. But the changes to Washington have been staggering to watch. High-rises have leaped up, office buildings have risen, neighborhoods have been transformed. Streets once deserted after dusk are now crowded with restaurants and bars. A luxurious waterfront area is taking shape around the stadium that the playoff-bound Nationals call home. Million-dollar listings abound in neighborhoods that 10 years ago were transitional at best.
Now the Northern Virginia succor:
Cross the bridges into Virginia or shoot north into Maryland, and you’ll find concentrations of wealth greater than in the richest counties around New York and Los Angeles and San Francisco. Last week, new census data revealed that 7 of the 10 richest American counties in 2011 were in the Washington, D.C., region. Fairfax, Loudoun and Arlington Counties, all in Northern Virginia, have higher median incomes than every other county in the United States.
Whence comes this wealth? Mostly from Washington’s one major industry: the federal government. Not from direct federal employment, which has risen only modestly of late, but from the growing armies of lobbyists and lawyers, contractors and consultants, who make their living advising and influencing and facilitating the public sector’s work.
How did each one of these counties vote in the last election?
Nearly every one of these votes is bought and paid for with the public’s tax dollars through transfer payments from the country’s pockets into their employment. The reason the Washington crowd goes to such great lengths to demean and dismiss the Tea Party is because their message of small government and reduced Federal spending puts most of these people out of their cushy, lucrative, every year get-a-raise, retire at 55 with a full pension jobs. This is much the same reason Ohio –a 50/50 state — is stubbornly favoring Obama thanks to the nefarious actions in the bankruptcy proceedings of the auto companies. Even without Obama the auto companies would have emerged nicely from bankruptcy, only they would have been healthier companies and without the illegal transfer payments to the auto unions. He does the same thing for Northern Virginia through the unprecedented expansion of government, only this time it’s legal. Douthat closes thusly:
In reality, our government isn’t running trillion-dollar deficits because we’re letting the working class get away with not paying its fair share. We’re running those deficits because too many powerful interest groups have a stake in making sure the party doesn’t stop. When you look around the richest precincts of today’s Washington, you don’t see a city running on paternalism or dependency. You see a city running on exploitation.
From the start of this blog I have argued North Carolina is not a Battleground State and Pennsylvania is. Both were somewhat controversial and I expected one of these assertions to become less controversial (North Carolina) and one to become more greatly contested (Pennsylvania) as the election wore on. Today, unfortunately, only one of those assertions remains controversial (North Carolina, although the evidence continues to lean my way) and the other one continues to fade from contention (Pennsylvania, still contestable but far less likely to flip). McClatchy news service takes advantage of is newspaper reach and gets excerpts from reporters about each of the 10 Battleground States (they include North Carolina and drop Pennsylvania):
Get ready for an all-out brawl in 10 too-close-to-call battleground states as President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney begin a two-month sprint to Election Day. They will deluge those states with personal visits, stacks of direct mail, automated phone calls and an unprecedented barrage of TV ads in tossup states Florida, New Hampshire, Virginia, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Iowa, Colorado, Nevada, Michigan and Ohio. They’ll probably all but ignore the rest of America. Strategies for easing what’s become chronic economic pain are the most prominent topic everywhere, though different states have different concerns. Nevada is stuck with a historic housing crisis. Ohio and Wisconsin are trying to revive struggling manufacturing industries. Virginia and North Carolina, once the economic jewels of the New South, have lapsed. With dispatches from McClatchy newspapers around the country, here’s a state-by-state look:
FLORIDA (29 electoral votes)
Florida reflects the nation: the southeast of the state is akin to the Northeastern U.S.; southwest Florida is tied to the Midwest, and the north of Florida is like the Deep South. Then there’s Miami-Dade, the state’s largest and most Hispanic county, which functions as a Latin American capital. Romney and supporters have dumped an estimated $45 million on television ads in Florida just for the general election. Obama and his allies have spent about $25 million. The Republicans held their convention in the Tampa Bay area, the most hotly contested battleground region of the state. Romney holds an edge in money, but Obama’s so-called “ground-game” organization of thousands of volunteers and nearly 100 field offices appears unmatched. The two are essentially tied, with Obama narrowly ahead of Romney by an inside-the-error margin lead of about 2 percentage points, according to the averages of the latest reputable statewide polls. Obama won Florida by fewer than 3 percentage points in 2008, but the toll of the bad economy has hurt his standing. The unemployment rate stands at 8.8 percent, and Florida’s foreclosure rate is the third highest in the nation.
OHIO (18 electoral votes)
Ohio loves its reputation as one of the most unpredictable of the bellwether states, and 2012 is no exception. Obama has visited the Buckeye State 27 times since taking office in 2009, including 11 this year. Romney has been to the state 13 times since last year. Obama and Romney are locked in a statistical dead heat in Ohio. The Columbus Dispatch recently recorded its closest presidential poll in modern history, with Romney leading Obama by only 0.22 percentage points, a figure well within the survey’s margin of error. As in other states, the economy is the dominant issue in Ohio, and voters appear evenly divided on whether Obama or Romney would provide better leadership on the issue. Though Ohio is a Rust Belt state, it’s doing better on jobs compared with other parts of the country. The state’s July unemployment rate was 7.2 percent – lower than the nation’s 8.1 percent jobless rate. John Green, a political scientist at the University of Akron, said that because of the state’s comparatively lower unemployment picture, the election could hinge on second-tier issues like the environment or abortion.
Similar to the post below regarding Ohio, Crystal Ball’s Geoffrey Skelley breaks down the Battleground map of Virginia, complete with the all-important battleground counties:
The idea of Virginia being a swing state is an entirely new concept, but it’s something the Commonwealth — and the nation — is going to have to get used to. The nature of the state’s population growth since the millennium has brought about major demographic and cultural shifts. Virginia is now the New Dominion, rather than the Old.
Of the state’s 13% growth in population between 2000 and 2010, a large portion occurred in Northern Virginia, the diverse suburbs and exurbs of Washington, D.C. Examples of rapid growth abound: Prince William County grew 40% while Loudoun County led the state with a growth rate of 84%, making them the third and fifth-most populous entities* in the state, respectively. Fairfax County crossed the 1 million resident threshold, making it more than twice the size of the state’s largest city, Virginia Beach. NoVa, as it is somewhat derisively known among down-staters, is now the most powerful region in the state on Election Day. As shown on the chart below, Northern Virginia had more total two-party voters in the 2008 presidential election than any other region.
Loudoun County, Virginia is as much an exurb as it is a suburb of Washington, DC but it is a definite Battleground this election season. In 2008 Obama won this county by 8 percentage points, 54 to 46. On Wednesday, Mitt Romney is going to be stopping by to say hello:
Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney will extend his swing through battleground Virginia this week, making a campaign stop in Loudoun County on Wednesday. Romney is holding an event in the Roanoke area Tuesday, appearing at Carter Machinery in Salem. On Wednesday afternoon, he’ll hold an event in Sterling at EIT LLC, an electronic design and production services company. Northern Virginia and the Roanoke-Lynchburg area will be critical regions of the state in November’s election.
Romney made two campaign stops in Virginia in early May, holding events in Fairfax County and in Portsmouth. He also delivered the commencement address May 12 at Liberty University in Lynchburg.
UPDATE: More on Romney’s visit to Northern Virginia:
The Northern Virginia technology company that Mitt Romney will visit this week happens to be, if you must know, doing fine.”We actually are doing fine,” Del. Joe T. May (R-Loudoun), the owner of EIT, said with a chuckle Monday after Romney’s campaign announced plans to visit the electronic engineering and manufacturing firm’s Sterling headquarters.
May isn’t exactly sure why Romney chose to visit his company, which employs 300 at two offices in Northern Virginia and two manufacturing facilities in Danville. The firm opened its second Danville facility, a 60,000 square-foot plant, in November. May figures someone involved in local Republican politics suggested EIT primarily because he’s a Republican small businessman. “I obviously didn’t propose the program to him,” May said. “His staff asked if we would be willing to host his presence and the answer is, ‘Sure.’ … They haven’t shared the gist of his remarks, but I would expect them to be business related, economy related and how are we going to improve the U.S. economy.” If Romney talks about how Obama’s health-care overhaul could hurt small businesses — provided the Supreme Court doesn’t throw it out this week — May can be counted on to nod his head approvingly. May is concerned that it would drive up insurance costs, although he hasn’t fully crunched the numbers. “We’ve done some really crude estimates and it is discouraging,” May said.
Fairfax, Prince William and Loudoun Counties comprise Northern Virginia. The incredible expansion of the Federal government has disproportionately benefited this region more than anywhere in America. As such, the typical suburban voters whose politics usually reflecting the ebb and flow of election outcomes are not consistent with the government-centric Northern Virginia suburbs. The author of the linked piece pushes the debunked “demography is destiny” trope without mentioning the region’s massive Federal subsidy through the government expansion. The growing minority and educated white influx is reflective of the skilled government jobs, rather than more typical immigration patterns and pressures like in the Southwest or Florida. But regardless of the driver behind these moves, the results are the same — this is a solidly Democrat area in the most populous region in the state:
The affluent and diverse suburbs of northern Virginia swung decisively toward Obama in 2008, providing most of his margin of victory in a state that hadn’t voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since 1964. Although Obama is not assured of another victory in the Commonwealth, Romney probably won’t win by rolling back Obama’s gains in the D.C. suburbs. Last cycle’s consummate swing region is likely to again vote decisively for Obama in 2012, and Romney will need to look elsewhere for big gains in Virginia.
Since 2000, the demographic composition of the region and the national Democratic coalition changed dramatically. According to the 2010 census, Prince William and Loudoun counties grew by 43 and 84 percent respectively, with minority groups representing a disproportionate share of new residents. Today, whites make up just 56 percent of residents in northern Virginia.
Over this period, Democrats accelerated big gains among college-educated white voters.In Fairfax County, Democrats gained ground in every election since 1980, with Kerry becoming the first Democrat to win since LBJ.
Year Dem % Year Dem % 2008
Amy Walter at ABC News’ The Note drills down even further into the very topic of this blog — the limited nature of Battlegrounds in this year’s election:
We all know there are just a handful of states that will ultimately decide the election. But it’s really just a handful of counties in a handful of states that actually matter. The two states I think will determine the outcome of the election are Colorado and Virginia.
Colorado: Jefferson and Arapahoe Counties in suburban Denver are the swing counties in the state. In 2008, those two counties contributed 565,000 votes – or 25 percent of the 2.2M cast.
Virginia: Five key counties determine the winner of the state: Henrico (Richmond suburbs), Loudoun and Prince William (suburban Washington, D.C.), Virginia Beach and Chesapeake City. Total votes cast by these five counties in 2008: 764,000 (20 percent of total votes cast in the state).
I’ve never lived in a Battleground state or even a loosely contested state, but I can imagine by election day residents in each of the above counties will loathe both campaigns due to what can be an inundation of campaign ads littering their televisions over the come five months.