Vying for Virginia Voters
VCU Professor says Virginia’s swing state status once again a factor in presidential election
University Public Affairs
Virginia’s swing state status has once again attracted feverish attention from the candidates in this year’s presidential race. Both President Barack Obama, a Democrat, and presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney have made their presence known here, making appearances, opening campaign offices and spending big money on political ads.
VCU Political Science Assistant Professor Jennifer Thompson, J.D., said, while voters may already be growing tired of the non-stop campaign calls and the endless political commercials on television, there is more to come.
“There is no question – Virginia is a must-win state for Obama and for Romney,” Thompson said. “And they are coming in hard.”
But it’s not always been that way. For four decades, Virginia was reliably “red” in presidential races, supporting the Republican candidate in every presidential race since 1964. But that all changed in 2008 when Virginia voters backed Democrat Barack Obama.
“Obama, the Democrat, won by about seven percentage points in 2008,” Thompson said. “But then you go on to 2009, where Republican gubernatorial candidate, now Governor, Bob McDonnell won by overwhelming margins and then you carry on to 2010 where Republicans captured more Congressional seats. So it is very much in play – very important – one of maybe three, four, or five must-win states for both candidates. “
Late spring voter polls show Obama with a small lead over Romney in Virginia, and the race could tighten as voters start paying attention to the campaign and consider which candidate will do a better job in improving the economy.
“Virginians are very focused, surprise-surprise, on the economy,” Thompson said.
And both candidates have focused on the economy in early campaign ads, promoting their own success stories as they criticize their opponent’s record.
Thompson said to expect the campaigning to become more heated as Election Day draws nearer. With millions of dollars in campaign advertising, the race could generate enthusiasm or suppress turnout by voters weary of the negative campaigning.
“What I think is that this is probably going to be the nastiest campaign that any of us have seen in our lifetime,” Thompson said.
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