Call it Barack Obama backlash. Yesterday, as I knocked on doors for Virginia gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell, I encountered a variety of interesting folks. Many were willing to listen, some were desperately seeking alternatives to the Democrat Party, and, in a handful of cases, a few were eager to share their astonishment at the leftward direction of America.
How this bodes for McDonnell's campaign in November will depend on how well he motivates these voters to pull the lever in an off-year election. One woman, who told me she was a Republican, confessed she doesn't vote in non-presidential years, reflecting one of the challenges for McDonnell. Yesterday, however, she was in the minority. Obama seems to have angered so many people that even his supporters are having second thoughts just 200 days into his presidency.
I was knocking on the doors of voters in a Fairfax County community who have voted in Republican primaries or who lack of clear party identification. That meant I ran into a sizable number of individuals who told me they supported Obama last November, including one female Obama voter who was eager to learn more about the GOP ticket of McDonnell, Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling and Ken Cuccinelli, who is running for attorney general.
Three people I met yesterday were so excited to talk they came outside and had my ear for 10 minutes each. One was a state employee who said morale under Democrat Gov. Tim Kaine is at an all-time low among his colleagues. Another said she immigrated from Eastern Europe more than 50 years ago and now fears for America's drift toward socialism. A third said he was frustrated that no Republicans are making a convincing case in opposition to Obama -- but he hopes McDonnell emerges as one.
In this Democrat-leaning suburb of Fairfax County, I was surprised by the reaction. Having gone door-to-door for a county-wide race in February, the attitude of voters has shifted markedly since then. But you don't have to take my word for it. Just look at what the Washington Post reported last week in an amazing front-page article:
Stephanie Slater, 44, a neighbor of [Chris Ann] Cleland's who leans Republican, voted for Obama on the strength of his character and because of his positions on education, energy and health care. She recalled brimming with confidence after Obama's historic inaugural address.
"When he gave that speech that day, I was in awe. I was really inspired and thought, 'Wow, this is a guy who can do it,' " said Slater, a medical transcriptionist and mother of three.
But she has been disturbed by the large Wall Street bonuses that Obama doesn't seem to be able to halt and his inability to rein in credit card companies that raise rates even on those with good credit. Although she is trying to be patient, she said she is losing faith in the Democrats running Washington.
"Honestly, at this point, I have to say I'm worried. I haven't come across one person that seems to have been helped," she said. "If I don't see a spark, a light at the end of the tunnel, I may be voting Republican [for governor]."
It's people like Slater who will determine the outcome on Election Day. But we can't count on Obama anxiety alone to result in GOP victories.
There are still 80-some days until Nov. 3 and much work to be done in Virginia. If you're like me and want to bring change to Richmond, get involved by signing up for McDonnell Action.