As Election Approaches, One State Becomes Two

By Michael D. Shear
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 26, 2006


Two Virginias will be voting Nov. 7.

The ballots in the U.S. Senate election will be counted statewide, but recent public polls suggest there is a widening gulf between the views of Northern Virginians and the people who live elsewhere, especially south of the Rappahannock River.

In Northern Virginia, Democrat James Webb will be elected in a landslide, the polls show. In the rest of the state, the dirt is expected to fall the other way, for Republican incumbent George Allen .

The race itself is close. Every poll shows Webb and Allen to be within a few points of each other. Basically, it's a tie.

But whichever way it goes, the stark contrast between the two Virginias remains. And not just in the Senate race. The urbanization of Northern Virginia and the region's psychological connection to Washington are contributing to a vast gulf in attitudes compared with the rest of the state.

Take the marriage amendment, for example.

In Northern Virginia, the proposed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and civil unions would lose by a 13-point margin, according to a Washington Post poll taken in mid-October. Other recent polls have shown similar opposition in the region. Excluding Northern Virginia, the ban would be approved by a 20-point margin.

Or consider other issues: On transportation, Northern Virginians are more frustrated by traffic and more accepting of paying for improvements through higher taxes. The region's voters are less happy with President Bush and more likely to say that the war in Iraq was not worth fighting.

There are, of course, topics on which the state's voters agree. They give Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) a job approval rating of 77 percent, about the same as his 78 percent approval in the Washington suburbs. Job approval of Sen. John W. Warner (R) was the same -- 66 percent -- inside or outside of Northern Virginia.

But the differences stand out more than the similarities. And that could have long-range consequences, both for electoral politics and for actual governing.

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