Having arrived here from Mexico when he was 18, Espinal, like many new Latino voters in Northern Virginia, is inclined to vote for the president, in part because of the Republican challenger’s positions on immigration. But he says he is not 100 percent certain and wonders why the Democratic side has not contacted him.
“There’s a lot of confusion,” Espinal said. “One party says one thing, one party says another thing, so it is hard to know.”
In the world of political junkies and campaign workers, the undecided voter in the last days of a hard-fought and massively expensive marathon is an odd bird, a source of frustration and even private derision. After all this, how could they not know?
But on the streets of five highly contested counties in Virginia — which, along with Ohio and Florida, is one of the most important remaining battleground states — plenty of people haven’t made up their minds. Both sides think that what they do in the next six days can make the difference in persuading those last few voters and — more important now — in pressing supporters to act on their intentions.
It is the first time in decades that Democrats and Republicans are making such a strong, late push in Virginia. Romney’s operation has contacted far more Virginians than John McCain’s did in 2008, but even campaign officials don’t know whether that reflects rising enthusiasm or a better-managed effort.
Obama’s campaign contends that it has expanded the grass-roots network that produced unusually strong turnout four years ago, but it is unclear whether it is reaching new voters or merely shoring up support among voters who may not be as excited as they were last time.
But many voters don’t share the politicians’ faith in the effectiveness of their campaigns. “I’ve literally gotten called several times by the Obama campaign,” said Jake Guinard, 23, who lives in Centreville. “I’ll probably vote for him, but of all the Republicans, Romney was the one I was most comfortable with. I just wish they’d both say what they’d really do instead of just calling the other guy terrible.”
Even with the Sandy megastorm forcing cancellation of some rallies and phone banks, and suspension of in-person absentee voting in some populous areas on Monday and Tuesday, what insiders call the ground game has gone into hyperdrive.
According to The Washington Post’s latest Virginia poll, the Obama and Romney campaigns have contacted — by phone, e-mail or in person — 44 percent and 41 percent of likely voters, respectively. Two-thirds of those reached by Obama and nearly three-quarters of those reached by Romney say they were contacted in the past week.