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GOP division could keep Va. seat in Democrats' hands

At the peak of the public fury over the health-care debate last summer, he held 21 town hall meetings totaling 100 hours, more than any other member of Congress. He continues, despite the leanings of his district, to stress his opinion that health-care reform is badly needed and that the insurance industry is largely responsible for organizing the opposition.

"When you have opponents willing to lie, cheat and steal and spend hundreds of millions of dollars doing it, that makes it more difficult," Perriello told the Smith Mountain Lake Democrats at a breakfast speech last week. "They spent a million dollars on negative TV ads against me last year -- in a nonelection year. A lot of that money was coming from the health insurance companies. That shouldn't shock us."

Over bacon, eggs and biscuits at the Bluebird Bakery and Grill in Moneta last week, Lynn Sharples, 55, a Democratic retiree from Bedford County, asked the congressman: "How come you can't sell it? I want to know why you can't make it happen."

It prompted a hallelujah from Perriello, who stood at the center of the dining room and spoke, over the clinking of forks and knives, about his brother, Bo, a high school teacher and coach with four children and health insurance premiums larger than his mortgage.

"The House bill takes on the insurance companies," Perriello said. "The Senate bill, not so much."

The Democrats mmm-hmm'd approvingly.

Perriello's outreach has not gone unnoticed, and even many of his opponents acknowledge his sincerity. But they still don't think it'll be enough.

"He's a nice person. He gets all over the district," said James Falls, a Bedford County resident who heard Perriello speak later that day at a veterans event at the local VFW post. "But around here, his chances are two: Slim and none."


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