All eyes should be on the Old Dominion. In the past three presidential elections, Virginians have gone with the winning ticket in presidential balloting. Two of those contests, in 2000 and 2004, were decided by narrow margins in which this key state was one of the deciding factors in the eventual outcome in the race for the White House. In 2008, Barack Obama won the state for Democrats for the first time since 1964 by a sizable 7 points. This time it won't be so easy.
Polls show Republican challenger Mitt Romney and President Obama are tied or within the margin of error in the commonwealth. However, it should prove difficult for the Democrat to pull a repeat in a place that's been solidly Republican since going for Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1952. Since that year when Americans first decided they liked Ike enough to put him in the Oval Office, Republicans have won Virginia in 12 of 15 presidential races and 10 straight before the upset four years ago. Before the last election, Virginians even went against the national trend by rejecting fellow southerners and tapping the GOP in three years -- 1976, 1992 and 1996 -- when the country elected Democrats Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, respectively.
It's not only the presidential matchup that's too close to call in Virginia. The hotly contested Senate race between former Republican Gov. George Allen and former Democratic Gov. Tim Kaine is neck and neck as well. A true horse race, these two old political pros have jockeyed for position all year, taking turns taking the lead. Since February, the widest margin has been two points, and it's currently a tie. Who pulls out ahead for good has wide implications for the Romney-Obama contest because contrary to the usual dynamic in which national candidates offer coattails to those running statewide, these two popular, populist figures attract voters for their parties' national tickets, thus affecting the ultimate outcome. The records and positions of Mr. Allen, a former senator, and Mr. Kaine, former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, offer voters a clear choice.
One of the biggest issues on the other side of the Potomac is transportation. As governor, Mr. Kaine laid the groundwork for deals that will soon festoon every freeway in the commonwealth with a toll booth. He handed the Dulles Toll Road off to the unaccountable airport authority so commuters will eventually spend $22.50 on each round trip, raising money for a pointless Metrorail boondoggle. Mr. Kaine also negotiated the deal handing over the central lanes of Interstate 95 in Northern Virginia to an Australian company, taxing drivers for use of existing roads they already paid for. Even though Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell is implementing these tolling schemes, Mr. Allen had the courage to stand up and oppose his GOP colleague as the current governor pushes to add tolls to Interstate 95 south of Richmond.
Old Virginny has been solidly red for 60 years, but a swelling population of liberal government bureaucrats living in Northern Virginia has transformed it into a swing state. This year, momentum is on the side of the elephants. Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama are currently tied at 46 percent in 11 key swing states. Last time, according to Rasmussen Reports, "Obama won these states by a combined margin of 53 percent to 46 percent, virtually identical to his national margin." That Mr. Obama has fallen so far exposes deep dissatisfaction with his presidency and his party. This tips the balance in favor of Mr. Romney and Mr. Allen.
Brett M. Decker is editorial page editor of The Washington Times. He is coauthor of the new book "Bowing to Beijing" (Regnery, 2011).
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