This fall’s election season was shot out of a cannon this week, with the nation reeling from a series of stunning pro-Tea Party upsets and near upsets Tuesday in primary races, and President Obama turning up the heat with a new array of economic recovery proposals, coming to the Mantua section of Fairfax County, just west of Falls Church, to make his case on Monday afternoon.
There is no doubt that Obama’s afternoon back porch meeting with a family of four here Monday was calculated to buoy the re-election chances of this region’s two Democratic U.S. congressmen. Rep. Jim Moran and Rep. Gerry Connolly were close at hand during Obama’s visit, hopeful that the president’s initiative will help light a fire under some of those voters who elected Obama in 2008 but whose interest has faded since.
While Moran, seeking an 11th two-year term, is considered “safe” in his re-election bid against GOP nominee U.S. Army Colonel Patrick Murray and independent Ron Fisher in the 8th District, encompassing most of Arlington, Alexandria, the City of Falls Church and parts of Fairfax County, the same level of certainty does not exist for Connolly.
Seeking only his second term, Connolly is fighting to hold onto the 11th District seat for his party in a district that has elected a Republican, former Rep. Tom Davis, as recently as four years ago. Connolly is pitted again against GOP rival Keith Fimian, who he defeated by 10 percentage points in 2008.
The surprise results in numerous primaries around the U.S. Tuesday reflect a powerful anti-incumbent sentiment, which could jeopardize the Democrats’ control of the House, if not the Senate, in the November 2 election.
While the base of the Republican Party is fully energized, the challenge for the Democrats will be to bring forth some similar results among their voter base.
Last fall, it was the failure of the same level of voter support exhibited for Obama in 2008 to materialize that accounted for the election of Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell over State Sen. Creigh Deeds. The drop off in voter turnout between 2008 and 2009 more than surpassed McDonnell’s margin of victory. While many observers attributed that outcome to Deeds’ shortcomings, developments since indicate that the continuing combination of a growing anti-incumbency sentiment and Democratic voter lethargy was just beginning to take hold.
Against the backdrop of on-going economic malaise and high unemployment, the mood was also reflected in local elections this spring, as in the case of the City of Falls Church, where incumbents took it on the chin in the City Council election and three out of four seats were filled by newcomers.
State Del. Jim Scott, who represents the 53rd District in the state legislature that includes Falls Church, was candid in his comments as an observer of the coming mid-term congressional elections during an exclusive live televised interview on “Falls Church News-Press Live,” carried over the local Falls Church public access cable channel Monday night.
Scott, who is not on the ballot this fall, said that while he is confident that Moran will get re-elected, he was not so confident about Connolly, noting that a big part of the 11th District is in Prince William County, where Connolly is less-well-known and the anti-incumbency sentiment is high.
Scott also noted that three other Democrats in the Virginia congressional delegation are “in trouble” this fall: Glenn Nye in Tidewater, Tom Perriello in mid-state, and Rick Boucher in the far southwest.
Boucher, seeking his 15th term in the 9th District, is facing a stiff challenge from Del. Morgan Griffith, the GOP’s majority leader in the state house of delegates. Nye is seeking re-election to a second term in the 2nd District, running against auto dealer Scott Rigell. Perriello, also seeking a second term after a surprise upset victory in 2008, is fighting to hold his 5th District seat against a challenge from Republican State Sen. Robert Hurt, and a third candidate is also on the ballot, an avowed Tea Party supporter running as an independent, Jeffrey Clark.
All three Democratic incumbents are working hard for re-election, Scott said, but are finding their incumbency and party affiliation in divided districts are working against them.
“What they all face is not so much of a Republican tide, as an anti-government sense,” Scott commented. “There are a lot of people out there who feel the government has not listened to them.”
The Democrats’ chances, he emphasized, will be determined by the level of voter turnout.