Almost an hour ago I just finished watching live on the internet Barack Obama speaking at the Convocation Center at James Madison University here in Harrisonburg, Virginia, in the heart of the "red" Republican Shenandoah Valley, although Harrisonburg tracks the state as a whole pretty accurately, meaning Obama is currently leading in the city as in the state as a whole. Many continue to say that Virginia is the marginal state, the one more than any other that will determine the final outcome, and Harrisonburg tracks it. So, he may be the first major party presidential candidate to visit here since Douglas in 1860. His speech was mostly standard stump, with some soaring rhetoric at the end, but the crowd was enthusiastic and way over the 7500 capacity in the center. It started at 5:15, but one of my colleagues gave up trying to get in after getting in line at 12:30!
Obama has gone to Norfolk in the Tidewater for a speech later this evening. This is the region that may really explain Obama's apparent lead in Virginia. Of course, population increases in "unreal" Northern Virginia is part of the pattern, but the ironic key according to Bob Roberts, a poli sci prof at JMU who is a frequent commentator on local TV is that McCain is not very far ahead in the Tidewater. The irony here is that this is the area that is most chock full of military, with Hampton Roads being the world's largest naval base. According to Roberts, McCain does lead among the military themselves, but their families have turned against him, sick of the long Iraq war. So, if McCain loses Virginia, and thus the election, it may be the ultimate blowback from his support of the awful Iraq war, finally coming home to roost.