Polls and Power in Sight, Parties Try to Rally Voters
Monday, November 5, 2007
NORFOLK, Nov. 4 -- Gov. Timothy M. Kaine went door-to-door looking for votes for Democratic candidates Sunday as top Republicans gathered for a hoedown during the final push of the most expensive campaign in history for control of the Virginia General Assembly.
With the seats of all 140 legislators on the ballot Tuesday, the campaign's final hours will test both parties' skills at getting supporters to the polls in what historically has been a low-turnout election.
Kaine (D) spent the day stumping for Democratic state Senate candidates in Tidewater, a critical arena this year as Democrats try to pick up the four seats needed to gain control of the Senate. After a pair of church services, Kaine joined Democratic candidate John Miller to greet lunchgoers at Steve's Steak House in Newport News, which specializes in $14 New York strip steaks.
"Can I just say hi?" Kaine asked Arlene Spencer, 70. "I'm the governor of Virginia, and I'm here with my good friend John Miller."
About 50 miles away, GOP leaders, including Attorney General Robert F. McDonnell and state party Chairman John H. Hager, gathered in Virginia Beach to rally supporters at a hoedown complete with horses, live music and a mechanical bull.
The mood was festive but reserved, with many Republicans acknowledging that national fatigue with President Bush and the war in Iraq were translating into a tough year for the GOP.
"In some people's minds, it's time for a change. . . . It's going to be a challenging day," said Sen. Kenneth W. Stolle (R-Virginia Beach), who is coordinating the GOP effort to keep control of the Senate. "It's going to be about who's energized. It all depends on who turns out."
Although both sides are now focused on grass-roots campaigning, much of the election has been about raising and spending money on negative TV and radio ads and mailings. According to the nonpartisan Virginia Public Access Project, House and Senate candidates have raised nearly $60 million, twice as much as in 2003, the last time both chambers were on the ballot.
Virginia Democrats are hoping Tuesday's elections prove the state is trending blue just in time for next year's presidential and U.S. Senate races.
Although few expect that the Democrats can gain the 11 seats needed to retake the House of Delegates, most political observers say that nine Senate races are up in the air. In all but one of those Senate races -- the matchup between Sen. Charles J. Colgan (D-Prince William) and Republican Robert S. FitzSimmonds -- the seat is held by a Republican.
"These races are within the margin of error. It's hard to get a feel," Hager said. "But a last-minute surge can make the difference."
Kaine, who labels Republicans in Richmond obstructionists, is teaming with former governor Mark R. Warner (D) and Sen. James Webb (D-Va.) to help get Democrats to the polls. The three will headline a rally Monday morning at George Mason University, hoping to drive up turnout in Democratic-leaning Fairfax County, where Republican Sens. Jeannemarie Devolites Davis, James K. "Jay" O'Brien and Ken Cuccinelli II face strong Democratic challengers.