The Virginia state Senate majority is on the line today as voters go to the polls across the state, but both parties will also be watching for clues that could help them in 2012.
Virginia will be a presidential and U.S. Senate battleground next year, as President Barack Obama looks to win the state a second time and former Govs. Tim Kaine (D) and George Allen (R) duke it out for the open Senate seat.
Obama’s organization has been up and running in the state for months, and state Democratic Party Chairman Brian Moran said Sunday that the campaign has been very helpful to the party’s efforts this year. Kaine and Allen have crisscrossed the state since the summer on behalf of state legislative and local candidates.
“This will set the trend for next year’s election, and they realize 2012 is a pivotal year ... and Virginia’s going to be in the eye of the political storm for the U.S. Senate and the presidential race,” Allen said by phone from the campaign trail Monday.
Republicans already hold the governor’s mansion and the state House. Winning the state Senate would give them total control and also begin an immediate push to pass a Congressional redistricting map that seeks to keep the delegation’s current 8-3 Republican majority in place for the next 10 years.
There are competitive elections across the state from suburban and exurban Northern Virginia down to Hampton Roads and in Southwest coal country, all areas that both parties will be battling over in 2012. The independent voters in the outskirts of Washington, D.C., and Richmond have a history of turning statewide elections, so the campaigns will look there for signs of positive momentum.
A source close to the Allen campaign said they’ll be looking into the results to find areas where they believe they can pick up pockets of voters that can help offset big Democratic vote totals in the inner suburbs of Washington, D.C.
Both Kaine and Allen said hitting the trail for candidates over the past several months has given them the opportunity to engage with voters already tuned in to elections.
Allen noted that supporters often come up to him at events for local and state legislative candidates and say they want to help him next year. Concluding his months-long statewide tour, Allen was scheduled to appear at a phone bank for a state Senate candidate in Fredericksburg on Monday night.
Kaine appeared in mid-election-season form during his 12-minute stump speech at a get-out-the-vote rally Sunday at a newly developed strip mall in Loudoun County. He went through the list of state candidates standing behind him — their bios rolling off his tongue with ease — and why it was essential that Democrats hold their last line of defense against total Republican control in Richmond.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, speaks with reporters in the Capitol after a speech on the Senate floor that accused the CIA of searching computers set up for Congressional staff for their research of interrogation programs.