Their numbers are barely enough to rise above the margin of error in political polls, but Virginia’s ticket-splitters are more than sufficient to make the difference in two very tight races. These are voters for whom President Obama and former governor and senator Allen, despite the ideological gulf between them, seem like the candidates of change, men who understand regular folks and can break through the political paralysis.
Conversely, the other set of splitters sees Romney, who will take a bus tour through the state on Saturday, and Kaine as the adults on the ballot — serious, effective leaders with the capacity to rise above partisan differences.
In the complex interplay between the presidential and Senate campaigns in one of the nation’s most crucial swing states, the hunt for a relative handful of ticket-splitters takes place in a quieter corner, far from the war zone of more than $100 million in ads aimed at Virginia voters.
In phone banks, retail politicking and conversations with donors, the Allen and Kaine campaigns are scurrying to identify and court Virginians who may well go a different direction for Senate than they do for president.
“People for whatever reason do like President Obama, and they do think things need to be changed,” Allen said as he campaigned at a rodeo show at the Loudoun County Fair. He cited support for veterans and funding for higher education as areas where his appeal and Obama’s overlap.
Allen’s wife, Susan, who has appeared with Romney, said she can understand why some voters are drawn to both the president and her husband.
“I’ve run into people who said they’re going to vote for Obama and they really like George. They trust him, and they know him,” she said.
In a Washington Post poll in May, 5 percent of Virginia voters said they were voting for Romney and Kaine and 7 percent supported Obama and Allen.
Some Kaine advisers scoffed at those figures, saying that finding real Obama-Allen voters would be nearly impossible.
But they’re out there. Roger Quiroz, 24, is a banker in Fairfax who has voted for Obama and Kaine. He said he’s leaning toward Obama this year “because things were in a rut when he came in and it’s not fair to hold that against him. . . . Romney has that business background, but he’s so much for the rich.”
For the Senate seat, however, Quiroz is ready to mix it up. “I haven’t seen much change in Virginia, and it’s not totally Kaine’s fault, but I just want better results,” he said. “In my job, I see foreclosures, people upset about their interest rates, people getting their cars repossessed.”