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Is Obama's Message Too Soft For Virginia?

Virginians unaccustomed to getting any attention from presidential candidates are suddenly at the red hot center of this campaign, and with Barack Obama down in the southern part of the state today and John McCain and Sarah Palin appearing at Van Dyke Park in Fairfax City on Wednesday, both sides are diving into exactly the parts of the state where their parties are weakest.

But are the campaigns pushing the right messages in their drive to win Virginia?

On Raw Fisher Radio today, I talked to strategists from both sides who agreed that the state is too close to call and that Obama probably has the tougher road ahead.

Despite the string of Democratic victories that have resulted in two straight Democratic governors and Sen. Jim Webb unseating George Allen, Mudcat Saunders--the Roanoke-based consultant who helped turn Connecticut Yankee Mark Warner into a beloved figure in rural Virginia--argues that Virginia is not yet a blue state.

Saunders says it was not so much Democratic strength as botched campaigns by the Republicans that resulted in some of the recent Democratic wins. "The anti-Republican sentiment I've seen is not washing off on John McCain," Saunders says. He suggests that Obama's path to victory in Virginia must involve a powerful embrace of economic populism and the kind of honest eagerness to learn and enjoy southern culture that Warner displayed in his 2001 gubernatorial campaign.

"You gotta remember, Mark came out here 53 times," Saunders says. "He didn't try to fool anybody. He said, 'I'm not from the culture, but it sure looks like a lot of fun.'" So when Warner donned camouflage and went hunting for the first time, and appeared genuinely to enjoy it, rural Virginians were impressed and didn't see anything phony going on, Saunders says.

Obviously, a many-months-long courtship of the kind that Warner waged in rural Virginia is not in the cards for Obama, but Saunders says the candidate should nonetheless "sit down with my boy Jim Webb for a while" and learn about the rural culture that seems alien to Obama.

Diana Bannister, vice president of Shirley and Bannister Public Affairs, a Republican consultancy in Alexandria, not surprisingly agrees that Obama has a long way to go to connect emotionally with rural Virginians. "Rural Americans--people who like their guns and their religion--don't like a presidential candidate going to a foreign country and speaking ill of Americans," she says, referring to Obama's recent journey to Germany.

But Bannister grants that McCain and Palin face an uphill battle in northern Virginia, where she says they need to emphasize their good government, reformer credentials rather than Palin's conservative stances on social issues.

Bannister was unwilling to engage on the question of what role Obama's race might play in the outcome in Virginia, but Saunders took on that issue head on. He noted that Al Gore lost by 16 percentage points in rural America, and John Kerry lost by 19 percent among rural voters. "If Obama loses rural America by 18 points, they'll point the race finger," Saunders says. "It's unfair."

He notes that Doug Wilder was elected Virginia's first black governor in 1989, winning 48 percent of the vote in the state's most rural congressional district. Race, Saunders says, certainly hasn't gone away as an issue, but is no longer a barrier to a candidate's chances, even in rural areas.

There's more on that issue and on many other aspects of the race in Virginia on this week's installment of Raw Fisher Radio.



POLL

By Marc Fisher |  September 9, 2008; 2:59 PM ET
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Comments

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Obama has been ramping up the attack machine against Palin., He is even starting
to attack her on personal issues. http://www.theobamaplan.com

Posted by: Anonymous | September 9, 2008 4:41 PM

As a virginian I am hoping Obama really hits Palin hard on her Etical issues. Lets get the political fight going! Maybe he should bring up her affair. Or any other of the numerous scandals. http://www.hotpres.com

Posted by: Anonymous | September 9, 2008 4:42 PM

VA / DC / MD loves Obama.

Posted by: Jon B | September 9, 2008 5:20 PM

some people are critiquing obama's methods, stating he should hit back harder, but i think that he is doing the right thing by sticking to the specifics, and fighting for the votes of rural america....gore and kerry did not do a good job of that and it cost them in the long run....keep pushing on obama!!!

Posted by: bitterindependent | September 9, 2008 5:25 PM

I wonder what many other things like no guns or abortion Obama has for the white people. How about comparing her welfare mother to yours. What does he know about not using welfare, he grew up on it. What does he know the pride us hard workers feel when we pay our own taxes and even get money back from the Bush's tax plans.

Posted by: Amado | September 9, 2008 5:34 PM

....ummm when did obama say no guns....when has any democrat said no guns...prove it...

Posted by: bitterindependent | September 9, 2008 5:50 PM

politicans regulate guns, but they will never be able to totally take away guns...it's a basic american right...that type of talk is just a FIXEDnews talking point...

Posted by: Anonymous | September 9, 2008 5:56 PM

It's definitely hypocritical of McCain to choose such an inexperienced person to be his VP, especially because he claimed he was so concerned about Obama's experience. It's incredibly disturbing that this decision reveals his judgment is so short-sighted that he's pandering to a large constituency in the Republican base in order to get elected, and that is also very revealing about his character. His record shows he definitely doesn't share their values and were it not for Gov Palin's gender and beliefs, it's extremely doubtful he'd have chosen her otherwise (especially since it's been reported that Lieberman was his first choice, but he was told that the base wouldn't accept that).

To me, this choice says he is putting partisan politics first and not looking past these next few months and the impending election. He should have realistically considered if anything should happen to him, she would be president and I am sure he is not stupid enough to ignore her glaring lack of experience, especially in foreign policy matters. What a disappointment. He may think that nothing will happen to him and he’ll be in charge, as he has already said that “the job of VP is going to funerals and inquiring daily as to the health of the president”. However, we cannot ignore his age and that if elected, he’d be the oldest first-term U.S. president ever elected in our country’s history. Because of his age, we need to scrutinize her as a possible next president of the United States. A real leader would put his own agenda aside and consider this realistically for the good of all. His kind of judgment does not put “Country First” and I certainly can't view Gov. Palin as "ready to lead" since we know so little about her. Are we expected to simply "trust John McCain's judgement"? HARDLY.

Posted by: GEM | September 9, 2008 6:04 PM

Republicans, in case you didn't know, Bill Clinton, a Democratic President, radically reformed the welfare system in 1996. If you republicans ever bothered to pick up a book or read statistics you'd realize that the poorest peoples in this countries are often the hardest working people of all. Even more so than you blue-brained, I mean blue-collared slacking stiffs who think if you start calling yourself middle class it would make the republicans care more about you. Under a purely republican government our standards of living has fallen while prices have risen. Social programs that helped working people's children such as school food programs and State children insurance programs have been slashed and burned in order to send our children off into an unjust war started by lies. Republicans are very adept at telling lies. Palin's stump speech is all lies as his McCain's. When the media is afraid to call a lie a lie I worry about the future of this country. Our educational system is failing, and thereby allowing us to make the same mistakes over and over again. We have mortgage our health, house, and credit to companies who take till they murder us. Yet, republicans think it isn't the government's job to protect us from the excesses of their championed market. Had the housing bubble and subprime mortgage been regulated we would not have to nationalize these two giants. We are letting China and others poison our children and ourselves with their cheap toys and food stuff that the government refuses to inspect. So, what has the republicans done for us? Take our monies and provide no services in return. Not even the ones they are obligated by law to do. If McCain Palin wins in November it will confirm once and for all that the only things we Americas are exceptional at is stupidity.

Posted by: Penseur | September 9, 2008 6:04 PM

Republicans, in case you didn't know, Bill Clinton, a Democratic President, radically reformed the welfare system in 1996. If you republicans ever bothered to pick up a book or read statistics you'd realize that the poorest peoples in this countries are often the hardest working people of all. Even more so than you blue-brained, I mean blue-collared slacking stiffs who think if you start calling yourself middle class it would make the republicans care more about you. Under a purely republican government our standards of living has fallen while prices have risen. Social programs that helped working people's children such as school food programs and State children insurance programs have been slashed and burned in order to send our children off into an unjust war started by lies. Republicans are very adept at telling lies. Palin's stump speech is all lies as his McCain's. When the media is afraid to call a lie a lie I worry about the future of this country. Our educational system is failing, and thereby allowing us to make the same mistakes over and over again. We have mortgage our health, house, and credit to companies who take till they murder us. Yet, republicans think it isn't the government's job to protect us from the excesses of their championed market. Had the housing bubble and subprime mortgage been regulated we would not have to nationalize these two giants. We are letting China and others poison our children and ourselves with their cheap toys and food stuff that the government refuses to inspect. So, what has the republicans done for us? Take our monies and provide no services in return. Not even the ones they are obligated by law to do. If McCain Palin wins in November it will confirm once and for all that the only things we Americas are exceptional at is stupidity.

Posted by: Penseur | September 9, 2008 6:04 PM

Republicans, in case you didn't know, Bill Clinton, a Democratic President, radically reformed the welfare system in 1996. If you republicans ever bothered to pick up a book or read statistics you'd realize that the poorest peoples in this countries are often the hardest working people of all. Even more so than you blue-brained, I mean blue-collared slacking stiffs who think if you start calling yourself middle class it would make the republicans care more about you. Under a purely republican government our standards of living has fallen while prices have risen. Social programs that helped working people's children such as school food programs and State children insurance programs have been slashed and burned in order to send our children off into an unjust war started by lies. Republicans are very adept at telling lies. Palin's stump speech is all lies as his McCain's. When the media is afraid to call a lie a lie I worry about the future of this country. Our educational system is failing, and thereby allowing us to make the same mistakes over and over again. We have mortgage our health, house, and credit to companies who take till they murder us. Yet, republicans think it isn't the government's job to protect us from the excesses of their championed market. Had the housing bubble and subprime mortgage been regulated we would not have to nationalize these two giants. We are letting China and others poison our children and ourselves with their cheap toys and food stuff that the government refuses to inspect. So, what has the republicans done for us? Take our monies and provide no services in return. Not even the ones they are obligated by law to do. If McCain Palin wins in November it will confirm once and for all that the only things we Americas are exceptional at is stupidity.

Posted by: Penseur | September 9, 2008 6:06 PM

the republicans have never really had a strong record with the economy (even with reagan)...they usually run on "values" and "narrative" ie. Sarah Palin and george w. bush....both governors...

Posted by: bitterindependent | September 9, 2008 6:10 PM

I wish Hillary would put the smack down on Sarah. She no comparison to Hillary who dedicated her life to service.

Posted by: Steve | September 9, 2008 6:26 PM

If the Republicans wanted a vice-pre­sident who favors teaching creationism in public schools, who denies the science of global warming, who op­poses not only civil unions but also benefits for same-sex couples and who has been more than cosy with an Alaska secessionist party, they got what they asked for. But a person capable of leading our military on day one? Why would McCain risk America's security for short term political advantage?

Posted by: thebob.bob | September 9, 2008 6:46 PM

How is what Obama is doing in Virginia "too soft?" The article doesn't mention that. I do agree that if he hasn't already done it, Obama should sit down with Jim Webb and learn about the rural culture. He shouldn't try to fool anybody and admit this is a different setting than he may be used to.

Posted by: John S., Alamo, California | September 9, 2008 7:58 PM

Researched heavily Obama's past.

He is dangerously underskilled and underexperienced to be our chief executive.

Drug use to which he admitted in his book disqualifies him to serve in the federal government.

While a current senator from Illinois, he has completely ignored his duties to his constituency. How irresponsible is that?!

Posted by: The Truth | September 9, 2008 8:53 PM

A clear review of the facts show's that Gov. Palin is more experienced to hold the position of President than Sen. Obama. We really need to focus on comparing Sen. Obama to Sen. McCain, and Sen. Biden to Gov. Palin. What concerns me is that Sen. Obama doesn't seem to have any original thoughts. I continually get the feeling he is just saying what others tell him to say---he's disingenuous. If he raises taxes on the "wealthiest American's" that is going to include businesses that we all need for products and services, and those hikes will get passed onto us. There is no way he can accomplish what he wants without growing government, and the last thing we need is bigger government. Socializing healthcare is a dreadful idea. It will be healthcare for the poor only for one thing, and please don't be deceived, that will not be TOP healthcare. Those who can afford private healthcare will do so. There are no government run healthcare systems that are renowned, research is driven by capitalism. It is why our society has worked and acheived so much, capitalism works.

Posted by: VAThinker | September 9, 2008 9:30 PM

I hate to say it because of my pro life teachings. Obama will win in november.

Posted by: Homer | September 9, 2008 10:31 PM

Daydream Obama Stump:

"Enough! of the Republicans lies,
Enough! where only the rich become victors.
Enough Torture! Enough war! Enough selfish unsacrificing greed! Enough with Presidents who think their King, a Vice who just re-writes the law, so no law can touch them!
Enough of this insanity!

Enough lost jobs! Enough lost homes!
Enough of the sick who turned away to suffer and the unlucky who are told there is a cold sidewalk where to sleep! Enough with all this unlove! Lies telling you your dream is too big, yours means too small, that time is not urgent, that it can't and shouldn't be done! Enough of these dream-killers, these liers, stone-age men, McCain, John McCain...

I will not be ordered to be fear.
I do not fear the future.

Enough!

Posted by: Yar | September 9, 2008 11:11 PM

Sarah Palin charged woman for rape kits while mayor of her town. women were assaulted and then billed by her town for rape test, a law then mayor palin wrote. Joe Biden wrote the Violence against woman's act protecting millions of woman. I think I will vote democrat in November. It's obvious who cares about women's issues in this election and it's not a women.

Posted by: Richard, Kingsport,Tn | September 9, 2008 11:14 PM

Sarah Palin charged woman for rape kits while mayor of her town. women were assaulted and then billed by her town for rape test, a law then mayor palin wrote. Joe Biden wrote the Violence against woman's act protecting millions of woman. I think I will vote democrat in November. It's obvious who cares about women's issues in this election and it's not a women.

Posted by: rkz1964 | September 9, 2008 11:19 PM

Todd Palin was a member of the Alaska Independence Party (AIP) from 1995-2002, a group which advocates secession of Alaska from the USA. Under the Smith Act of 1940 it is the crime of sedition (treason) to support
"the overthrow of a government in the United States." Sarah Palin is on video giving a supportive speech to the Alaska Independence Party in 1994. Why hasn't the Federal prosecutor indicted Todd Palin and Sarah Palin for sedition (treason)?

Posted by: M.A.Langenkamp | September 10, 2008 2:31 AM

Marc, I'm still not clear from your blog post: What about Obama's message is "too soft" for VA?

Posted by: Lindemann | September 10, 2008 2:34 AM

VAthinker...on what grounds are you making the statement that Sarah Palin has more necessary experience than Barack Obama to be the cheif executive? This is a blatently false and ignorant assumption. Palin has spent her career as a small time politician in one of the most isolated and desolate states in the Union. the fact that no one in the country would even care what she was saying if she wasnt the VP nominee has gone completely unmentioned. if Sarah Palin was speaking only as a governor from Alaska, would anyone listen? Obama had a voice that was heard loud and clear in the last election. He has the potential to be an important and revolutionary icon. Sarah Palin is a right-wing religious fanatic that everyone will forget in November.

Posted by: VirginianInVietnam | September 10, 2008 3:40 AM

VA Republican party doesnt have a clue. They will put up the most conservative candidates for the Seante and state wide offices. Only qualification is you must home school your spawn.

Tom Davis would have had a chance to win but Gilmore has no chance.

I cant wait for the effete law professor and metrosexual Obama to go hunting.

Obama has no experience as an executive. Sorry Palin was a may and a gov and had to make executive decisions.

Obama was a law prof and community organizer. Wow I am not impressed.

Our choices come down to a Depends wearing Naval Academy grad or a effete metrosexual
law professor for prez? Damn were f*cked!

Only real men running were Hil and Gov Palin.

If you raise the taxes on the rich they just charge you more. We all pay for Obama's tax increase and resulting Depression!

Posted by: Anonymous | September 10, 2008 6:31 AM

Cute little sound bite from Obama yesterday - "Lipstick on a pig is still a pig".

Lucky for him that McCain and Palin won't lower themselves to his level. Otherwise, their response could be "That's the pot calling the kettle black". Or, "Nothing like calling a spade a spade".

Posted by: DC Voter | September 10, 2008 8:54 AM

Obama's message "Too Soft" for Virginia?

What does that even MEAN???

Posted by: Anonymous | September 10, 2008 9:38 AM

Virginians aren't stupid people. We have the best universities in the country and we tend to stick to our beautiful homeland, regardless of the fact that we are highly skilled and could go anywhere in the country to work. We are a pragmatic and straight talking state, and we care deeply for our country.

Therefore, most of us are smart enough to figure out the games being played on the McCain side. All of these attacks are transparent and we Virginians (rural and urban) are smart enough to see through it.

Some of us DO cling to our guns and religion sometimes- let's face it- it's our culture and we don't want someone challenging our culture! However, sometimes we do this at our own peril, and we are smart enough to know when we have to think outside of the box.

Virginians need Obama as much as Obama needs Virginia right now. If he wants our votes, he should go see the brilliant Virginia students at Tech, UVA, JMU and he should get them out to vote. He'll win in Virginia if he gets our brilliant students out to vote. They are our future and our best asset.

Obama *hearts* Virginia.

Posted by: socimom | September 10, 2008 10:38 AM

Hey socimom you really need to stop smoking your kid's stash and get out into the real Va not your little million dollar house in McLean.

Get out and talk to the farmers and small business folks not the overpaid govt contractors who live in your neighborhood.
They see Obama as taking away their guns and raising their taxes. They see Obama as making them less safe and more vulnerable to terrorist attack. They see their neighbors and family members who serve in our military as more vulnerable becuase they rememeber the Clinton years when the training budgets were cut!

Sorry honey those of us in the real VA dont trust lawyers and especially big city Harvard graduating ambulance chasers!

Posted by: Anonymous | September 10, 2008 12:58 PM

It is clear that only the ignorant will not vote for Obama. The electoral college needs to be adjusted to give more weight to educated areas and not the areas that voted for guys like Bush and McCain.

Posted by: Lib | September 10, 2008 1:02 PM

If anything Obama is too tough for Virginia. People are afraid of change. They can not or will not open their eyes to the truth.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 10, 2008 1:23 PM

Obama-Biden is a wonderful ticket. Obama has been campaigning in rural VA and has been getting a wonderful response from the people.

Posted by: Ni | September 10, 2008 4:43 PM

If we are going to apply the drug use standard for federal government, then know that Sarah Palin has also said that she has inhaled marijuana.

Posted by: Ni | September 10, 2008 4:46 PM

Uh "Lib", nobody has "Voted" for McCain yet. The election is in November. Sorry to hear you don't want your area of the country to have an electoral college vote though, based upon your intelligence criteria.

And "DC Voter" - lighten up. What Sen. Obama does in his own time is his business, OK? Wow, those mid-western boys and their college parties. Must have been a little different ...

Posted by: SoMD | September 11, 2008 7:19 AM

Ni : Ooh. Honesty from a politician. We can't have that now, can we? Let's all just vote the Democratic ticket and avoid that problem, alright?

Posted by: DC Voter | September 11, 2008 10:21 AM

Obama may be wasting his time in Virginia. The rural vote combined with McCain's strong support in Tidewater(lots of Navy) will put McCain over the top. There are at least three states more ripe for a switch from Republican to Democrat- Ohio, Iowa and New Mexico.

Posted by: D Leaberry | September 11, 2008 2:09 PM

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