"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)

8.03.2008

a race to watch

One of the more interesting side effects of my choice of career path, as well as education and background, is that some of my friends have really interesting jobs. Put another way, political science and international relations attract the ambitious kids. To put it mildly.

This year, not one, but two former classmates are running for elected office. One is running for the Senate as a Democrat in Nebraska, which is going to be a disaster, but the other is running for Congress in Virginia's fifth district. The district is traditionally pretty solidly Republican, but candidate Tom Perriello is making inroads by running a campaign that is heavy on the language of faith (he has campaign volunteers "tithe" 1/10th of their volunteer hours to good causes in the district like Habitat for Humanity, etc.) and focused on working for the common good. He's mounting a serious challenge, so much so that the DCCC has added him to the "Red to Blue" program, meaning he'll be getting a significant chunk of cash with which to continue the race.

It doesn't hurt that Perriello's opponent, twelve-term Congressman Virgil Goode, did something so stupid on the 4th of July that the Daily Show dedicated a whole segment to it. (Warning: there's a little coarse language in the clip, but "Republican or a Rapper?" is hilarious.) Nor is it harmful to have John Grisham do a campaign event. And when members of Congress are reduced to screaming like petulant three-year-olds who didn't get their way, well, this may be one of the rare years in which it's easier to run as a newcomer than as the incumbent.

I'm convinced that Virginia will be one of the deciding states in this year's presidential election. The demographics are fascinating. (With the rural, conservative mountains and the booming liberal suburbs of Washington, DC, it's could come down to how the military bases at the beach vote. And despite the military's issues with the Iraq war, I don't see them going for Obama.) The success of Democrats downballot will have a lot to do with what kind of turnout Obama and McCain are able to produce. Add in the votes of first-time voters, especially students and young adults in Charlottesville, Richmond, and Blacksburg, and no one is sure what will happen. That makes this race in Virginia's 5th (which includes C-ville) one to watch.

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