Just How Rare A Bird Is Frank Wolf Now?
From Boston to Washington, there is no longer a single Republican in the House of Representatives from any portion of the great cities of the megalopolis.
But the new Democratic surge is not happening in the big cities themselves. It's the suburbs of major metropolitan areas that are shifting, and that change is now so deep that Rep. Frank Wolf--the Republican who easily won reelection in a district that extends from Fairfax County out to several counties in the third ring of Washington exurbs--will now be not only the only Republican to represent any piece of the D.C. region inside the Beltway, not only the only Republican left in the House from a county that had a majority-GOP delegation in Congress for decades, but also something quite a bit more remarkable:
Wolf and Rep. Peter King, the Republican whose district includes much of Nassau County on Long Island, will be the last members of their party in the House to represent the close-in suburbs of any major city along the northeast seaboard from Cape Cod to Mount Vernon.
A few Republicans come close, mainly thanks to bizarrely mapped districts that have most of their population out in the exurbs but have narrow fingers of territory that reach closer in toward big cities. Outside Philadelphia, for example, three districts whose voters mainly reside in second-ring suburbs or beyond have slivers of land that extend close to the city, and those three districts still have Republican representatives (Jim Gerlach, Joe Pitts and Charlie Dent.) Similarly, in northern New Jersey, Republican Scott Garrett held on in a district that consists mainly of second- and third-ring suburbs, but also includes parts of northern Bergen County across the Hudson from New York's Westchester County.
But if you're looking for Republicans in districts that are based solidly in the suburbs that often form the economic engine of those big metro areas, you'll find just Wolf and King.
This stark reality is leading to understandable pride from supporters of Wolf, who demolished his Democratic challenger, Judy Feder, for the second straight election; and from Democratic leaders, who seem a bit surprised by their own domination of areas that not long ago were considered solid and semi-permanent GOP turf.
"One would think after what 'Fake Virginia' did to Jerry Kilgore and George Allen who virtually ignored Fairfax County during their campaigns, John McCain and Sarah Palin would have have learned a lesson," writes Scott Surovell, chairman of the Fairfax Democratic Committee in a somewhat triumphalist note to his fellow Democrats. :"Our county is the most well-educated, diverse, wealthy, well-informed, and the largest jurisdiction in this great Commonwealth. Barack Obama and Joe Biden won a 73,638 vote margin out of our County and 18% of our votes (absentees and provisionals) are still being counted. Once they are in, Fairfax will probably have provided something close to a 100,000 vote margin in a race where Barack Obama and Joe Biden carried the Commonwealth by 155,238 votes. This will likely be more than triple the 33,691-vote margin Fairfax County gave to John Kerry in 2004 once all the dust has cleared."
All gloating aside, Surovell makes a point that many Republicans in Virginia would now finally acknowledge: "We have now proven in three straight statewide elections that the path to statewide office, and some might even say to winning the Presidency, passes right through Fairfax County. The last four years have shown that statewide candidates who ignore Fairfax County, do so at their own peril."
With that in mind, Bob McDonnell, the GOP's candidate for governor next year, has sent out a letter reminding supporters of his deep roots in Fairfax--he was raised in the county--and of his intent to pay much more attention to northern Virginia than did, say, Jim Gilmore, whose Senate campaign this fall was utterly invisible in the close-in D.C. suburbs.
"As a Party we have much work to do to win," McDonnell wrote. "Congressman Tom Davis has wisely counseled Republicans about the need to reach out to all communities in Virginia. He is right.... I was raised in the Mount Vernon area of Fairfax County. My old neighborhood still looks the same. Same houses, same ball fields. But on recent election days, my old neighborhood hasn't been voting for my political party. It's time to change that. So next year I'm going to start in my old neighborhood. I'm going to walk down Wagon Wheel Road where we moved in 1962 and talk to the voters there."
Of course, being there is a big first step, but ultimately, the question will be what McDonnell and other Republicans have to say to northern Virginia suburbanites. And that's the debate that the GOP has to have--and quickly. Hard as it may be to stomach, the '09 campaign is gearing up, fast.
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