Keys to the kingdom: Things to watch for on election day

THE ODD DOMINION

Constitution Party presidential candidate Virgil Goode. File photo. Constitution Party presidential candidate Virgil Goode. File photo.

So here we are. After what seems like the longest presidential campaign in human history, the election is just days away. And, while we are firmly on record predicting an Obama win (both nationally and in Virginia), nothing—and we mean nothing—is ever certain in politics (just ask alternative-universe President Thomas E. Dewey). With that in mind, we thought it might be instructive to take a closer look at the various pieces of Virginia’s electoral vote puzzle, and pinpoint the major factors that could swing the outcome one way or the other.

Romney’s debate bump: Goode enough?

There’s certainly no denying that Mitt Romney’s poll numbers improved markedly following the first presidential debate. And of all the swing states, Virginia’s shift was among the most significant, bringing Romney into a statistical tie with President Obama.

But the president’s subsequent strong debate performances, coupled with a relentless campaign schedule, have muted Romney’s surge, and now it looks like anybody’s game. Which is why the relative performance of third-party candidate Virgil Goode will be so crucial. While there’s no way that our favorite blow-dried blowhard will win (hell, he couldn’t even win a debate against Libertarian Gary “Legalize It” Johnson), if he breaks even 1 percent on

election day, Romney
is toast.

Turnout vs.
burnout

Obama won Virginia in 2008 by dominating traditional Democratic strongholds like Arlington and Richmond, while also squeaking out unexpected wins in traditionally conservative areas like Loudoun and Prince William counties. This victory was made possible by Obama’s outsized performance among black and Hispanic voters, who preferred him by large margins (92 and 67 percent, respectively). Obama is counting on the Commonwealth’s growing Hispanic population—along with his traditional base of students, women, African-Americans and latte-sipping Caucasians—to help him repeat this impressive feat. But the real question is whether or not the Obama campaign’s vaunted get-out-the-vote operation can match its stunning 2008 performance. Which brings us to…

Block the vote

Perhaps the biggest variable in this entire election is the effect of the GOP’s vote-suppression tactics. While they will deny it all day long, there’s really no doubt that Virginia’s Republican-backed voter ID law was crafted—like other similar state laws—to disenfranchise poor, elderly and minority voters. Add to that the recent scandal in which an employee of Pinpoint, a company contracted by the Republican Party of Virginia to register voters, was caught throwing away Democratic registration forms, and a disturbing pattern begins to emerge.

Now, something tells us that Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli—who was finally instructed to look into the matter after a week of stonewalling by the Republican-controlled State Board of Elections—will dismiss this as an isolated incident. But considering that acts of fraud by the Pinpoint-affiliated company Strategic Allied Consulting have been reported nationwide, it seems more and more than likely that registration fraud is, as Democratic Party of Virginia chairman Brian Moran put it, “a central feature of the GOP campaign effort this year.”

So which, if any, of these factors will have a major influence on the election? To be honest, we have absolutely no idea. But luckily, we only have to wait a few more days to find out.

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