Tales from the Trail

The First Draft: Reading tea leaves in Virginia

USA-POLITICS/The year after a presidential election, there’s typically few electoral contests on the calendar as politicians focus on getting some work done so they’ll have something to brag about to voters during the next election.

The few races that do occur tend to be heavily scrutinized as pundits look for something to chew over in the slow period before next year’s congressional midterms.

Today, Democrats in Virginia go to the polls to pick a candidate for the governor’s mansion, as incumbent Tim Kaine is constitutionally limited to one term. On the Republican side, Robert McDonnell faces no opposition for his party’s nomination.

Virginia, formerly solid red, is now a swing state that has elected successive Democratic governors and backed Democrat Barack Obama in last year’s presidential race.

All eyes are on Terry McAuliffe, a former Democratic National Committee chairman who headed Hillary Clinton’s failed presidential bid last year.

Paint Texas blue? Kaine won’t guarantee it

WASHINGTON – New Democratic Party head Tim Kaine wants to continue to win territory from Republicans, but he’s not ready to guarantee victory in George W. Bush’s home state.

As he took control of the Democratic National Committee from outgoing chairman Howard Dean on Wednesday, Kaine said he would continue Dean’s “50 State Strategy” to win votes in conservative places like Idaho and Utah.

“We will never again be a party that writes off states or regions or people,” Kaine said. “The 50 state strategy is now and forever what Democrats do.”

Democrats pick up first Republican Senate seat: Virginia

WASHINGTON – Democrats scored their first pickup in the U.S. Senate, taking the Virginia seat being vacated by retiring John Warner — but that doesn’t necessarily mean Democrats will win the state in the presidential race.

The popular former governor Democrat Mark Warner is projected to beat another former governor, Republican Jim Gilmore, according to the television networks. Gilmore was trailing by double-digits throughout much of the campaign.

Political experts have said that Warner’s victory could help Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama beat rival Republican John McCain in a state that hasn’t voted for a Democrat since 1964.

Weather looks good for most of U.S. on Election Day

WASHINGTON – Election Day is finally here, the final opinion polls are in and now it’s time for Americans to make their way to the voting booth — but will weather be a factor?

According to the latest forecast maps, most of the country will not have adverse weather conditions, but there could be rain showers in two battleground states.

Good weather historically has helped Democrats.

Virginia, which has voted Republican since 1964, is now a toss-up state between Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama and will likely see showers most of the day stretching from Newport News north to the suburbs outside Washington, D.C., and west toward Roanoke.

New state polls show shift towards Obama

rtx93zk.jpgWASHINGTON – A slew of new state polls released on Wednesday showed some shift in momentum toward Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama and away from Republican rival John McCain.

CNN/Time Magazine/Opinion Research Corp. released polls for five battleground states — Florida, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada and Virginia — that showed Obama ahead among likely voters in all of them, though still within the margin of error in four.

Obama held a 51 percent to 47 percent lead in both Florida and Nevada, a 53 percent to 44 percent lead in Virginia, a 54 percent to 43 percent advantage in Minnesota and a narrow 49 percent to 48 percent edge in Missouri.

McCain, Palin draw large crowd in battleground of Virginia

FAIRFAX, Va. – It was Republican John McCain’s turn on Wednesday to relish the kind rock-star treatment usually associated with his Democratic rival, Barack Obama, in the tightening race for the White House.

rtx8mop.jpgUnder burning sunshine at a park in a suburb outside Washington, D.C., McCain and his newly minted running-mate Sarah Palin drew a crowd of approximately 23,000, which his campaign said was his biggest on the presidential trail.

Campaigns are notorious for inflating crowd estimates. But a McCain’s aide stressed the number was the real thing — provided by a fire marshal no less.

Obama says odds of winning White House ‘very good’

ARLINGTON, Va. – Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama likes his chances in the White House battle with Republican John McCain, telling a fundraising reception the odds of his winning are “very good.”
    
“Let’s face it, there weren’t too many people who thought we were going to pull this off,” Obama told a fundraiser attended by about 40 people on Monday in Arlington, Virginia, in the suburbs of Washington.
    
“We are now in a position where the odds of us winning are very good. But it is still going to be difficult.”
    
Obama said he was pleased with his trip to Europe and the Middle East — “we executed very well” — but did not expect it to give him a big bump in polls.
    
He said people were still evaluating his candidacy because he was a new face in national politics.
    
“I don’t look like any presidential candidate America has ever seen,” said Obama, the son of a black African father and white mother from Kansas who spent part of his youth in Indonesia.
    
“It’s not just a function of race, it’s background, experience, resume — this is new for them, and new for us as a country,” he said. He expects a close race to the end.
    
“We’re not going to see some huge gap develop, some huge separation develop between now and Nov. 4,” he said. “This is going to be a close election for a long time because I’m new on the national scene. 

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage:  
http://www.reuters.com/news/globalcoverage/2008candidates