Romney hits town in search of rich pickings
Obama is less than one point ahead of Romney here, making it a hotly contested swing state
MITT ROMNEY came to this pretty town lined with antique shops and twee restaurants seeking votes on Wednesday night. Leesburg lies at the heart of Loudoun, the richest county in the US, with a median annual income of $115,600. So it would seem a natural constituency for Romney the quarter billionaire.
Except that four years ago, rich Loudoun and red Virginia voted for a Democrat for the first time in 44 years, awarding Barack Obama a 6.3 percentage point lead over John McCain.
Obama is less than one point ahead of Romney in Virginia, making it one of the most hotly contested swing states.
“I’m watching from the sidelines,” says Gregory Harris, an attorney and a Democrat who stood outside his office in North King Street as Republicans streamed past on their way to the Romney rally.
“There was an amazing groundswell of support for Obama last time,” Harris sighs.
“I hadn’t done anything since protesting George Wallace in the ’70s, but I was out there knocking on doors and manning a phone bank.
This time, the right-wing people are worked up; the left-wing people are not. More than half the Republicans who told me they voted for Obama in ’08 say ‘I can’t go with him this time’.”
A pudgy, middle-aged man wearing sunglasses and a gaudy gold ring pauses on his way to the rally. Like many Republicans who distrust what they label “the liberal media”, he won’t give his name, but identifies himself as a software sales executive.
“The money that’s coming in from Europe is upsetting,” he says.
From Europe? Why?
“George Soros has put tens of millions of dollars into superpacs,” he explains, referring to the Hungarian-born US billionaire. “Just look up Soros’s socialist background – he’s not the only one.”
“I gave up bridge to go to the rally,” declares Ruth, a petite, middle-aged Republican housewife who sits with two friends in a cafe.
“I’m really pissed off with the BBC!” Margie chimes in. “They said Barack Obama won the debate!”
He did, according to the polls.
I recall a quip by EJ Dionne of the Washington Post: When the polls turn against them, Republicans want to kill the pollster.
When polls are unfavourable to Democrats, Democrats want to kill themselves.
As twilight descends on Leesburg, I walk towards the rally with Nicky, a housewife in her 30s accompanied by two children.
“We needs some RR”, says the badge on her chest, with “Romney” and “Ryan” printed in small letters. She clutches a child with one hand and the yellow “Don’t Tread on Me” Tea Party flag in the other. Her husband, a software engineer, couldn’t come to the rally because he works late. “His company always sent him to the political conventions,” Nicky says. “This year he refused to go to Charlotte. He went to Denver in 2008 and he told me the people were dirty and rude.” Hygiene and manners matter to Nicky.