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Rookies Take Two Tacks

In an interview over the summer after he voted for the cap-and-trade bill, Perriello said that “when I’ve cast a vote that I think is going to be unpopular, I don’t hide behind it — I go out and I talk about it and make my case and let the chips fall where they may,”

After he voted for the health care bill, the National Republican Congressional Committee pounced on Perriello, issuing a statement shortly after the vote that his “political career was pronounced dead” because of “political malpractice.” The NRCC has described a vote for the health care bill as a “career-ending vote” for Perriello and other politically vulnerable Democrats.

By being among the Democratic “no” voters, Nye shielded himself from the tough criticism that GOP leaders leveled at Perriello. Still, businessman Ben Loyola (R), one of Nye’s two major challengers, criticized the Congressman’s vote against an anti-abortion amendment to the health care bill that passed with the backing of Perriello and 63 other Democrats.

If Perriello’s votes have antagonized Republicans, they’ve also endeared him to the progressive wing of his party. One key to Perriello’s election in 2008 was the strong voter turnout in the liberal precincts around the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. In a midterm election that will feature lower turnout than the 2008 presidential election, he’ll need to energize Democratic-leaning younger voters in order to win another term.

There’s a populist streak in Perriello’s district, which helps explain why he’s voiced concerns from constituents over the hundreds of billions of dollars that the government has spent to stabilize the financial markets. Perriello voted in January against releasing the second half of the $700 billion provided under a 2008 law to shore up the financial industry.

While Perriello’s district has distinct conservative and liberal-leaning areas, Nye’s district is more homogenous. Nye’s voting record is not unlike that of former Rep. Owen Pickett, the last Democrat to represent the district, from 1987 to 2001. Like Nye, Pickett focused on military and veterans affairs and amassed a voting record more liberal on social policy and conservative on economic policy.

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