WAMU 88.5 : Morning Edition

Parties Target Virginia's Swing Voters

Virginia Beach, Henrico County also a focus of Dems and GOP

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With five weeks to go before Election Day, Republicans and Democrats in Virginia are targeting a small number of jurisdictions as key battlegrounds, including Henrico County and Virginia Beach to the south, and Loudoun and Prince William counties in Northern Virginia.  

Voters in Loudoun and Prince William have already proven their politics can change. They helped elect both Republican George W. Bush to the White House in 2004 and Democrat Barack Obama in 2008. But they flipped again in 2009's gubernatorial race when they backed Republican Bob McDonnell.

"The polling shows that there's still a group that has not made a decision," says Toni-Michelle Travis, a political science professor at George Mason University. Attracting swing voters in Northern Virginia will probably come down to the bottom line, she says. 

"I think it has to be some dimension of the economic because that's where we saw a number of home foreclosures and, you know, people losing jobs," she says. 

So who are the undecided? Many of them are low-information voters, says University of Virginia Center for Politics analyst Kyle Kondick.

"The people who do pay more attention have a partisan affiliation, either an explicit one or an hidden one," Kondick says. "Whereas the undecided folks generally aren't paying as much attention." Reaching those low-information voters generally comes down to television advertising, which is why the local channels are flooded with commercials to move some of those voters.

To capture the rest of the Virginia electorate, Kondick says, both campaigns are relying on a strategy to turn out the base that's usually associated with Bush's 2004 campaign.

"I wonder if you might not see a similar thing, with Obama taking the role of the polarizing president," he says. 

The stakes are high as both sides converge on Virginia, where the commonwealth's coveted thirteen electoral votes could tip the balance.

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