November 3, 2009
When Karl Rove set out to get George W. Bush reelected in 2004, he targeted the Expedition-driving, megachurch-attending, Panera-eating, McMansion-living voters in places like Loudoun County, Va. Bush won Loudoun with 56 percent on his way to a comfortable victory statewide.
On Tuesday, Republican Bob McDonnell will also win Loudoun on the backs of similar voters. These are fairly affluent voters who are new to the state and, most important, don’t have any strong party affiliation. They want efficient government but otherwise don’t have much time for or interest in politics.
McDonnell’s victory in Loudoun and in neighboring Prince William County will come as a surprise to many armchair pundits, who thought that all of Northern Virginia had became solidly blue. Many die-hard Democrats will blame Creigh Deeds’s lifeless campaign and the political environment.
But the truth is that Northern Virginia is often taken for granted as a powerful Democratic bloc. To be sure, Fairfax County has become solidly blue, but Loudoun and Prince William counties are more accurately full of independents who just happen to be supporting Democrats recently.
The last time they supported a Republican, in 2004, Bush promised these voters that he’d keep them safe and keep their taxes low and then pretty much stay out of their lives. This was a winning message, and he beat John Kerry by 10 points among Virginia’s self-identified independent voters.
October 21, 2009
When Andrew Jackson roamed the hills of the Carolinas, northern Georgia and eastern Tennessee, it was still frontier, and for generations the southern Piedmont remained economically and culturally isolated. Today, however, Old Hickory might be surprised to learn what this area has become.
Atlanta, a railroad junction with a few thousand souls before the Civil War, is now home to the nation’s busiest airport. It’s also headquarters of several global companies, including UPS, Home Depot and Coca-Cola, which BusinessWeek recently ranked as the most valuable brand worldwide.
Within a couple of hours is Charlotte, the nation’s No. 2 banking hub; Raleigh-Durham, a booming biotech center; and the Piedmont Triad, home to a handful of Fortune 500 companies. Even Upstate South Carolina, still somewhat underdeveloped, has the highest foreign investment per capita in the nation.
The region following I-85 from Raleigh-Durham to the Piedmont Triad to Charlotte to Atlanta is quickly becoming a “megapolis.” To be sure, a lot of this area is still poor, and the region doesn’t have the accumulated wealth of its financial rivals in the Northeast Corridor. Nor is its economy as robust as its southern siblings in the Texas Triangle.
But the southern Piedmont is growing rapidly. Georgia is slated to gain two seats and North Carolina is projected to gain one after congressional reapportionment, and two of the top ten fastest-growing congressional districts are in the Atlanta and Charlotte suburbs. Both states rank in the top five for net domestic migration, and South Carolina is in the top ten.
December 9, 2008
Did you catch the score of that recent Oklahoma-Texas Tech game? It was about as close as the Obama-McCain matchup in Oklahoma. If you missed the game, Oklahoma was up 42-7 at half and eventually won by a crushing 65-21 margin.
The presidential contest in the Sooner State wasn’t much closer — McCain swept all 77 counties and won 66% of the total vote there, making it his strongest state. He even outperformed George W. Bush in all but a handful of counties.
The neighboring states of Texas and Kansas, which also host Big 12 teams, weren’t far behind in supporting the GOP candidate. This got me thinking, “The Big 12 is a pretty red conference.”
I checked the map, and sure enough, McCain won five out of the seven Big 12 states: Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska and Missouri. He lost Iowa and Colorado (but you could argue that the University of Colorado at Boulder’s hippie culture doesn’t really fit in with the Big 12’s aggie lifestyle anyway).
But the Big 12 wasn’t even McCain’s strongest conference — the Southeastern Conference (SEC) was. He won eight out of the nine states in the SEC, taking Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee and South Carolina.
August 24, 2008
John McCain has been known to take unpopular stands in Washington, but his boldest move of all may be scheduling his acceptance speech on the same night that the Redskins kickoff their 2008 season.
The Arizona senator will accept the GOP nomination in Minneapolis-St. Paul at the same time that the Skins take the field at the Meadowlands to challenge the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants.
This could be an issue for McCain. Even though D.C. is mostly Democratic, his TV ratings inside the Beltway could dip lower than Heath Shuler’s passer ratings. And in a year where Virginia is more “purple” than ever, McCain doesn’t want to turn the Commonwealth’s voters against him. Even Democratic Governor Tim Kaine’s legandary eyebrows would rise in anger.
McCain’s best hope is that voters outside the Beltway follow NASCAR Dad Joe Gibb’s lead and focus on something other than the burgundy-and-gold. The venerable Joe Gibbs may actually remind some of McCain.
Both are veterans of their respective craft, both are known leaders, and both are often considered old-fashioned. Republicans and Redskins fans are hopeful, however, that McCain does not share one of Coach Gibbs’ most criticized qualities — poor time management.
June 17, 2008
If you listen to most armchair pundits, you probably expect Virginia to be a pivotal swing state this November. But the truth is that while Virginia is purpling, John McCain has advantages in the Old Dominion that few other candidates would have.
To be sure, Virginia Democrats do have reason to be optimistic: They won the Executive Mansion in 2005, took a Republican U.S. Senate seat in 2006 and reclaimed the state Senate in 2007. But in 2004, George W. Bush walked to an 8-point victory in the commonwealth, which actually was a higher margin than the one by which he lost to John F. Kerry in the reliably blue state of New Jersey. Three and a half years later, Virginia will be more competitive, but Barack Obama — and the national media — shouldn’t underestimate how well-suited McCain is to win the state’s 13 electoral votes.
McCain starts with a strong base of military personnel, has solid support in Virginia’s key swing constituency of moderate Republicans and has a significant leg up over Obama in Appalachia. Hampton Roads alone is home to the Navy’s Atlantic fleet, NATO’s command center and hundreds of thousands of military personnel and veterans; Northern Virginia is home to the Pentagon, Quantico and Fort Belvoir. As a former POW and the son and grandson of admirals, McCain could boost turnout among this voting bloc.
April 16, 2008
The era of the Empire State’s reign over America has come to an end, and a new dawn of political power, in the hands of the Sunshine State, is upon us. After the 2010 Census, New York will lose two congressional seats and Florida will gain two. It will put both states’ delegations at 27 seats and mark the first time that Florida has caught up with once-mighty New York.
It’s a remarkable milestone, considering that a couple of generations ago Florida was a swampy backwater and New York loomed large as America’s dominant state. In the 1930s, for example, Florida sent only five representatives to the House, while the Empire State commanded 45 seats and New Yorker Franklin D. Roosevelt controlled the White House. Since that decade, however, New York has lost —and Florida has gained — seats in seven straight congressional reapportionments.
August 11, 2007
ANYONE looking for a meal in Wake County, N.C., will get a taste of how quickly the community is changing. In western Raleigh, a joint called Ole Time serves traditional Carolina-style barbecue, made with what proprietor Jerry Hart calls the two most important ingredients: “time and patience.” Ole Time is a symbol of what Wake used to be. Five miles away, in Cary, is a symbol of what Wake is becoming: California-based grocery chain Trader Joe’s sells sushi and organic snacks to the throngs of new Wake residents who have neither the time nor the taste for slow Southern cooking.
Wake is a county in transition. In the past 20 years, it has evolved from a sleepy bedroom community to a national biotech hub and a magnet for health research. Across the county, farms are being replaced by clusters of town houses, and woods are being cleared for office parks. Wake’s current population of 755,000 is expected to grow 50 percent in the next 15 years, according to Ferrel Guillory, director of the Program on Public Life at the University of North Carolina’s Center for the Study of the American South.
Effort could mean difference between thousands and millions of voters
March 15, 2007
WASHINGTON – If hunters want to bag a goose, they set the right decoys and make the right calls. If anglers want to catch a rockfish, they pick the right fly and use the right cast. And if political campaigns want to win the vote of a sportsman, they present a candidate that a sportsman can be proud of back at the lodge.
Each election cycle, campaigns from Big Sky, Mont., to Big Cypress, Fla., organize sportsmen coalitions to win over the votes of Americans who hunt and fish. Some of these efforts are well-planned and aggressive, such as canvassing backwoods turkey shoots with campaign literature and hunter-orange bumper stickers. Others are mere facades of grassroots coalitions that simply buy Field & Stream subscription lists and barrage readers with direct mail.
October 11, 2006
WASHINGTON – In early September, the Republican National Committee launched AmericaWeakly.com to take a humorous jab at what Congress would look like if the Democrats gained control. Mocking the minority party, the site features funny snapshots of notorious liberal legislators and satirical accounts of what their agenda might resemble. It’s like the Onion — but an Onion in which every joke is on the Democrats.
And Democrats aren’t the only party being ribbed online. AmericaWeakly was a kind of counterpoint to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee’s FudgeReport.net, a site modeled after the Drudge Report that skewers Republicans.