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Sunday Night on the Trail

Last night in Loudoun County, a northern Virginia county that has been trending Democratic, the GOP ticket wrapped up another day of campaigning. At this point in the race, the arguments have all been made and it’s become about pumping up the troops and getting out the vote. In a Leesburg campaign office, about 25 phones were all manned. It is easy to get volunteers on a Sunday night when the candidates are ahead in the polls.

Bob McDonnell had his closest brush with danger when the Washington Post ran its wall-to-wall thesis attack over a period of a few weeks. But the effort ultimately failed, and polls show McDonnell now leading among women. “Tamey,” a homeschooling mom whose husband owns his own business, called the issue “totally bogus.” The race, she said, was never about a 20-year-old thesis. We just “don’t like the road we’re on, ” she explained. A 34-year-old woman, “Wylie,” with a pink “Women for McDonnell” sign, said “We all write a whole lot of things in college.”

In the crowd there were a number of local politicians and a legion of volunteers, many of whom slogged through the low ebb in the party’s fortunes in the state over the past few years. They can sense they are on the verge of victory, perhaps an historic one. Ken Reed, a Leesburg city councilman, says the difference at a tactical level was the McDonnell camp’s “very practical, very pragmatic” emphasis on bread-and-butter issues. Reed says he was frankly “shocked” that, in contrast, Creigh Deeds, who had been in the state legislature for nearly 20 years, never came out with a detailed agenda. And there is also the sense that their Democratic friends and family members are short on “hope” and not thrilled with the “change.” A retired FBI agent dressed in a blue suit told me his family members and friends who couldn’t imagine why he hadn’t voted for Obama are now “disappointed.” He says, “It’s a short time to be disappointed.”

We will see the margins of victory and just how many Republicans are swept into office. The punditry will be in full swing. But these people and other conservatives in Virginia are already looking forward to 2010. They think the GOP will have the wind at their backs starting Tuesday.



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