The rest of this diary will discuss the state of the race as I see it, some analysis of the experience of phoning and of watching our use of volunteers, and an examination of two recent polls, that of Mason-Dixon and of the Washington Post / ABC (on which there is a diary here. But let me start with how Dan Balz and David Broder are sadly idiots.
While the polling information is a reason for real optimism in the Webb camp, and it is supported by other things, we still have real concerns. We are already picking up some signs of attempts at vote suppression around the state. While as yet there is no documented evidence of a plan to suppress by challenging as has been uncovered in Maryland, we have picked up rumors that similar actions will be attempted in Black neighborhoods in Tidewater, and possibly in Richmond as well. Given the endorsement by several African-American ministers of Allen we also will not be surprised by some forceful remarks from pulpits today on the marriage amendment issue. Thus by no means is this election a done deal. As I write this there are still two days and a wakeup. We do not know for sure how the sentence of Saddam will play, and what other last minute news may break. We have seen increasing evidence of desperation on the part of Allen supporters, such as going onto private property to remove and destroy Webb signs (see here for such a story).
On the other hand, volunteers continue to pour in to various Webb headquarters. The only real concern we have ab out our phonebanking is that because of the efforts of various independent groups (such as MoveOn.org) we are getting some complaints about being called too many times - we are now trying to remove strong supporters from any call data base (especially the robocalls) - this will hopefully save annoyance as well as the money for making those calls.
I made close to 200 calls yesterday. I got quite a few answering machines. Of my live calls, I got about 10% hangups, from which I could not tell if they were because I was calling about Webb or simply because I was calling (sometimes depending on the script being used I did not mention Webb at the top of the message and then I could determine). I got only about 3% people telling me they would not vote for Webb. I got far more responses that were supportive. For example:
"I am a fellow graduate of the academy and my wife and I are both voting for him."
"We will both vote for him. We wish we could vote for him 3 times, but this isn't Chicago."
"anything to get rid of that jerk Allen!"
Other anecdotal evidence seems to support this pattern. As I have noted previously, I try always to wear something indicating my support of Webb when in public venues. For part of yesterday I had on a sports jacket with multiple Webb buttons and stickers. In a Starbucks competitor several people initiated conversations with me because of that, or people smiled at me as I walked down the street, and one guy honked his horn. I got only one frowning face and no negative remarks. Last night I worked my way home from headquarters by stopping in three different supermarkets. In each case I had my Veterans for Webb tshirt on along with a similar sticker on my cap, and was carrying some literature as I bought a few items to justify my presence in the store. I got the normal looks, largely positive (this is heavily Democratic Arlington), several people who stopped and asked me if he would win, and one checkout clerk who might have been risking his job but wanted to tell me how much he supported Webb, that he had served with John Kerry in Vietnam, and that he hoped the Democrats would take over both houses and impeach Bush.
Perhaps the most telling anecdote of the day came from my wife. She was in Richmond for an event involving historians. After the meeting several were going out for dinner, and on the way she stopped to get gas. An older white gentleman (older than me?) with a heavy Virginia accent saw her bumper stickers and initiated a conversation. A man old enough to have experienced a segregated Virginia was quite upset about Allen, particularly the attacks on Webb's books. He was very concerned about what was happening to this country, and strongly supportive of defeating Allen and sending a clear message to Bush. What is interesting is not just that this gentleman initiated such a conversation with a total stranger whose accent made it clear she was not a native. It is that this is but one of dozens or even hundreds of such incidents that supporters of Webb have been reporting.
I am optimistic about Tuesday, especially here in Virginia. The newly released Mason-Dixon poll is a major part of that optimism. As I noted on the Post/ABC poll, one cannot merely look at the raw results of a poll in interpreting it, one needs to look deeper, at things like crosstabs, and the responses on other questions. This poll (details of which can be found at The Richmond Times-Dispatch) reported Webb ahead of Allen 46-45-2 with 7 undecided (the two is for a weak 3rd party candidate running as a Green who is really a conservative). This is the first time M-D has shown Webb ahead, and their last round of polling, based on phone calls made Wed-Fri with 625 likely voters. Their previous round had Allen up 49-45. The trend shows voters leaving Allen. The answers to subordinate questions makes it highly likely that the non-committed will break heavily for Webb. Let's look at some details
spread on personal characteristics of voters
- women 47-41 for Webb
- Blacks 83-6 for Webb
- Webb up 20% in NoVa
- Webb up 8% in Hampton Roads
On the nastiness of the campaign:
although there is plenty of blame on both candidates, when pushed the responders offered
- who responsible for negative campaign: 32% Allen 19% Webb
Negative views of candidates:
- Allen 42% Webb 32%
And note these results on the issues as to who is favored and by how much:
- Iraq and national Security: Webb 47, Allen 40
- Budget, TAXES and economic issues: Webb 43, Allen 41
- health care Webb 44, Allen 33
- Ethical issues: Webb 41, Allen 34
-who will do more for education: Webb 42, Allen 38
Only on immigration did Allen have an advantage, 41 - 36
And the real stunner MORAL ISSUES: Webb 42, Allen 35 !!!!
Now, I do not have crosstabs, and I acknowledge that some of these results might be because of an imbalance in the sample. But the trends to seem to be favorable, especially the geographic ones.
It is also worth noting that the advertising and editorials against the Amendment seem to be having an effect. The previous M-D poll showed the antigay marriage amendment supported 52-42, with the current data at 49-45, a halving of the margin.
I want to offer a perspective that includes the Amendment. I think it will contribute to Allen's defeat. Let me explain.
Arlington County Treasurer Frank O'Leary does a superb job predicting turnout in the County based on absentees. I heard yesterday that he is projecting a possible turnout of 80,000 voters. For points of comparison, in 2002 the turnout was just under 60,000 and last year it was a bit over 57,000 in our gubernatorial race. We are heavily Democratic - Tim Kaine came out of Arlington with a 30,000 vote margin. The additional 20,000+ voters projected by O'Leary could well represent another 10,000 votes added to that margin. And I think the biggest single reason for that additional turnout may well be to vote against the Amendment. Arlington already has two openly gay elected public officials, and will elect a third on Tuesday. While we do have a somewhat substantial gay population, that does not account for such elections nor for the strong response against the Amendment. We are heavily democratic, heavily liberal, and we have a huge number of unmarried straight people, many of whom are concerned about the implications of the Amendment to their lives and concerns. It would ironic if an Amendment designed to maximize the turnout of Christian conservatives on behalf of Allen instead maximizes the turnout of people to vote against the Amendment, even if it passes narrowly, and thereby ensures Allen's defeat.
I am hearing that the rate of absentees is heaviest in NoVa, which has become increasingly Democratic even as its share of the state's population increases. The greatest passion on the election seems to be NoVa and Hampton Roads, which happen to be where Webb is doing best. The weather forecast shows rain for at least part of Tuesday, but the two areas least likely to be effected are Hampton Roads and the immediate DC area.
Add to this the release tomorrow of the anti-Rumsfeld military newspaper editorials, whatever may be said in evangelical pulpits and at coffee hours about the Ted Haggard situation, and the fact that putting Saddam at the top of the news reminds people about Iraq (and may cause further violence there) and I feel comfortable.
But I am going to work all day to ensure that my comfort is no illusory.
I want to be Jim Webb's toilet, down which we flush George Allen, and Republican control of the Senate.
Have an enthusiastic GOTV day.