I live in the People's Republic of Arlington County, in Northern Virginia. We are near the middle as far as size of the swing states, trailing FL, OH and NC but larger than WI, CO, NV, IA and NH. We also have a highly competitive race for the Senate seat being vacated by Jim Webb, with the contest between Tim Kaine and George Allen.
While I am not seeing as many political ads as Jed Lewison tracked in Columbus OH last night (he was tweeting about more than 40 consecutive ads on one station being political), we see enough between the Presidential and Senatorial campaigns, and the independent expenditures directed at both races. If I am on MS-NBC the only ads I see with even close to the frequency of the cumulative political ads are a rotation between two ads for catheters for men with urinary tract problems!
While I am retired from teaching government and politics, I remain more than a bit of a political junkie. I read and watch quite a bit, and when I have the opportunity exchange ideas with other people.
Living as I do in the national capital area, presidential and congressional politics are of necessity local news for us. The competitive races make it that much more intense.
My prominence as a blogger also means I am bombarded by emails - press releases, invitations to events, requests for $$, and so on.
Yet today politics seems to carry a bit less weight here in our local People's Republic. Worries about Sandy are outweighing our political concerns.
Our Governor has already set up a state of emergency. Even if the likelihood now is that Sandy will make direct landfall somewhat to the North of us, most likely at the mouth of Delaware Bay, we are going to see extensive rainfall and high winds, perhaps for more than 24 hours. Higher elevations to our West are likely to see significant snowfall.
Here in Arlington many of us lived through close to a week with no electric power. Then, besides the normal concerns of loss of refrigeration, we also were suffering through high heat when the derecho hit and wiped out a good chunk of our electric infrastructure. The power companies have more time to prepare now, and so do the people. Last night one local supermarket was already almost out of bottled water and was out of ice. My .ocal; hardware store was running low on batteries, but still had plenty of tubing to put over the end of rainspouts to direct the water away from buildings - today I will put such tubing on the four downspouts that do not already have it, just as a precaution, and either today or tomorrow I will secure or move inside anything that could be moved around by winds of 50 MPH, which currently looks like what we could get.
Most of our trees still have leaves which will catch a lot of wind. As the ground gets softened, the chance of trees coming down will increase. Lots of branches may snap, and we may lose a lot of powerlines. The local power companies are preparing, but after last summer and some other recent incidents, lots of people in the DC area are taking no chances and preparing now for extensive outages.
Maenwhile the politics continues. There are multiple canvasses and phone banks operating today: NoVa is heavily Democratic, and Dems and labor are working hard to turn out big margins here to help keep the state blue in Federal races. Obama carried the state by 6.3% last time, and as I wrote yesterday, when one looks at data from registration in Virginia, we have seen
1. A 19% increase in the number of Latinos registered to vote since 2008
2. A 7% increase of African-American registration
3. Just shy of 60% of those registering to vote in the last two months are younger than 30
Even as we prepare for what could be a difficult time, there are people who will make sure we do not forget the importance of this election.
Officially we do not have early voting in Virginia. We do have in-person absentee, and it is not hard to qualify. Yesterday I took my wife down to the Arlington County offices to vote - she is having bad back spasms and having to stand on line would be a hardship. Virginia polls are open from 6 AM to 7 PM. She works until 7:30 or later on Tuesdays, and does not get up before 6:30, by which time in presidential years there are lines at many Arlington polling places. There have been times that if one did not vote first think the morning and waited an hour, the wait to vote would be more than 30 minutes.
In-person absentee voting was steady in Arlington yesterday. There were not lines like we have seen for early voting in places like Ohio, NC, IA and NV. It took her about 20 minutes from when she entered the voting place to when she finished voting. About 5 minutes of that was getting through the electronic ballot, because there were several constitutional amendments to consider.
The Starbucks at which I spend chunks of many Saturday mornings is far less occupied than is usual. Normally by 8:30 there are few places to sit. Today almost half are unoccupied.
I hear little conversation about politics. I hear normal chat about children and families, and a fair amount about the storm.
We are in a swing state.
We cannot get away from politics.
We are not obsessed with it.
But if Romney cannot win Virginia, he cannot get elected, because he is going to lose Ohio.
Realistically, I have never felt he could take Virginia. The presence of Virgil Goode on the ballot probably costs him .5% at a minimum. Obama has a superb organization in state, and some of the local parties in Arlington and Fairfax have terrific organizations of their own. Kaine remain reasonably popular, despite the constant barrage of attack ads against him - now perhaps exceeding $15 million. And yet, the first $10 million did not move the needle - from April when they began through September when Tim finally got on the air himself, he suffered $10 million of attack ads with the following impact
state of race before the ads began 46-46
state of race when he began his own ads 46-46
Even Rasmussen has Kaine 2 points up on Allen.
VA activists with whom I have touched base feel quietly confident about both the electoral votes and the Senate race. We will not lose any of our three House seats, but are unlikely to pick off any of the 8 held by Republicans, although there are a couple that could surprise, particular if the margin in the Presidential and Senate races begins to widen in the final ten days.
We are waiting to see the impact of Sandy. That will also include how governments at all levels - local, state and federal - respond to the impact.
We are a swing state.
Except I think we have swung somewhat blue for this cycle, and do not think that in ten days we will swing back.