President Obama made an appearance at Virginia Commonwelath University in Richmond May 5, one of two stops on his first official campaign weekend. Virginia is poised to get plenty of attention from the candidates in the lead-up to the November presidential election. (Zhang Jun/Xinhua/Zumapress.com)
Unless you’ve spent the last month spelunking in Luray Caverns, we’re sure you’ve noticed that Virginia has suddenly become the go-to backdrop for both presidential campaigns. The latest flurry of commonwealth-courting began a few weeks back, when presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney touched down in Chantilly to spend some time with the ladies.
Now, there’s a reason that Romney felt the need to court the female vote. While polling of the Old Dominion presidential contest has been all over the map, with both candidates leading at various times over the past few months, every survey since April 24 has shown President Obama maintaining a significant lead (the latest Washington Post poll has him up by six points over Romney). And the biggest single factor helping Obama is his standing with women. A recent Public Policy Polling survey, for instance, showed Obama and Romney tied among men, but had Obama crushing Romney 55 to 38 percent among women. This is, of course, not so surprising, given the Republican party’s recent high-profile campaign against Planned Parenthood and contraception, among other things, and the General Assembly’s passage of the infamous mandatory “vaginal probe” ultrasound bill, albeit with the most onerous parts stricken.
Which would explain why Romney, with his wife by his side, kicked off his recent Virginia swing at Exhibit Edge, an event-planning service, in front of a banner that proclaimed, subtly, “We are a women owned business utilizing other women owned and diverse businesses.”
Obama, on the other hand, geared his campaign kickoff rally toward the constituency he desperately needs to motivate come November: the kiddies. Speaking to a crowd of 8,000 at Virginia Commonwealth University, Obama was in full populist pander mode, ripping Mitt Romney’s proposed fiscal policies and telling the amped-up youngsters, “I refuse to pay for another tax cut by kicking children off the Head Start program or asking students to pay more for college or eliminating health insurance for millions of poor and elderly and disabled Americans on Medicaid.”
It is, needless to say, impossible to tell how this will all pan out at such a far remove, but it seems pretty clear that Obama won this round. Even though Romney had the company of Governor McDonnell at his second stop, in Portsmouth, and the benefit of some lackluster jobs numbers released the day before Obama’s rally, his small, sedate events just couldn’t hold a candle to Obama’s superior organization and stagecraft.
Still, it’s a long way to November, and we would be shocked if Obama’s current lead in the polls holds till then. There’s no doubt that things will tighten up considerably once Romney finally gets his ground game together and picks a veep (especially if it’s McDonnell).
Which is fine with us! There’s nothing we would like better than six months of seesawing polls and increasingly frenetic campaign rallies. These are, after all, the perks of being a swing state—and after decades of being a solid red election-day afterthought, we are going to savor every second of Virginia’s reign as a hard-earned, high-profile, purple-hued presidential battleground.