The Washington Post

Will Fairfax County determine the next president?

President Obama speaks at the James Lee Community Center in Falls Church in February. With Virginia an apparent swing state, and Fairfax County a large part of it, Obama is spending plenty of time here, including a visit Saturday to Centreville. (Susan Walsh/AP)

Defense-Heavy Fairfax County, Va., Could Decide Presidential Race

Now, you might think: Well, Obama won Fairfax 60 percent to 39 percent in 2008. If it’s up to Fairfax County, then game over, end of story, bring out the real birth certificate and light up the Kenyan Muslim incense.

But there is a long history of Republican presidential wins in Fairfax, including in the 1990s, when Bill Clinton was unable to defeat George H.W. Bush or Bob Dole here, and in every election before that all the way back to 1964, when LBJ won.

Obviously, Fairfax County is much different now and much bigger. When Nixon won in 1968, there were just over 100,000 votes cast. In 2008, there were 524,034 votes cast. The population is more diverse. You can’t get anywhere in 10 minutes.

But Forbes contributor Loren Thompson thinks the sheer numbers in Fairfax could tip Virginia, and thus the national Electoral College count, Obama’s way. After the jump, Fairfax congressmen Frank Wolf (R) and Gerry Connolly (D) weigh in, plus the presidential numbers from previous elections.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney campaigns at the headquarters of the Fairfax County Republican Committee in Fairfax City in October. Does he realize just how important Fairfax County is to his future? (Win McNamee/GETTY IMAGES)

It’s here where the defense contracting community comes in, and their uncertainty over whether defense budget cuts will cause them to lose jobs. Thompson theorizes that this uncertainty, or the actual cuts themselves, could move blocks of votes to the Romney column.

Here’s how Fairfax County’s two main congressmen, Republican Frank Wolf and Democrat Gerry Connolly, responded to that theory Thursday:

Wolf: “I would agree with that. I would add Loudoun County, a little bit of Prince William and the Tidewater area,” as places with large numbers of defense-contractor votes. “We are hearing from a lot of defense industry people. They’re worried. They don’t think the administration’s doing anything.”

Wolf said a bill was pending that would force the Office of Management and Budget to state what the real impact would be of the administration’s defense budget cuts, adding that this could cause further damage to the president. “I think it’s fair to say the administration has failed,” the longtime congressman said.

I asked if the defense contractors weren’t already going to vote Republican, regardless of what happens with the budget before the election. But Wolf noted that subcontractors, college-age children of defense contractors and people in related businesses who might be directly affected by defense cuts — and who aren’t always reliably Republican voters — could be moved to vote for Romney if the budget situation isn’t resolved.

Connolly: “The premise is false,” the former Fairfax board chairman said of the defense cuts factor. “President Obama is going to carry Fairfax County.”

Connolly said it was Republicans who had created the budget uncertainty with their debt ceiling machinations and refusal to consider tax increases, “and now they want to blame someone other than themselves. I assure you, my constituents in Fairfax will get that, including defense contractors.”

Connolly noted that the large number of federal employees in Fairfax are “bitterly unhappy with Republican policies. They feel singled out and attacked, and the contractors feel the same way.” He said Fairfax is ”much more receptive to the president and the Democratic message than the Republican message.”

Here’s the recent history of the presidential vote in Fairfax:

2008: D - 60.1%; R - 38.9%

2004: D - 53.3%; R - 45.9%

2000: D - 47.5%; R - 48.9%

1996: D - 46.6%; R - 48.2%

1992: D - 41.6%; R - 44.3% (Perot 13.8%)

1988: D - 38.3%; R - 61.1%

1984: D - 36.8%; R - 62.9%

1980: D - 30.8%; R - 57.4%

1976: D - 44.7%; R - 53.6%

1972: D - 32.4%; R - 66.3%

1968: D - 38.2%; R - 49.0%

1964: D - 61.2%; R - 38.7%

1960: D - 48.1%; R - 51.7%

What do you think? Could Fairfax truly be that crucial? Let us know in the comments.

Tom Jackman is a native of Northern Virginia and has been covering the region for The Post since 1998.


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