Nobody wants to be the forgotten candidate on Election Day, the person on the ballot that voters ask each other who it is. Most of the time, the candidate is in that spot because they didn't canvas local houses or speak at events. They just assumed people who are in their party would automatically vote for them. We argue that in several races, but especially the one for U.S. Sen. Mark Warner's seat, this is a bad assumption.
With less than two months before the Republican convention in Roanoke, sightings of the Senate candidates have been few and far between in the Valley. In truth, we've seen little from virtually any of the campaigns, except local ones. People may know of Ed Gillespie, but Shak Hill, Chuck Moss and Tony DeTora aren't exactly household names. In fairness, a lack of funding decides the limits of where candidates go, but there also seems to be a belief that Republicans and independents will turn out for anyone who opposes the Affordable Care Act. Supporters back up this thought by pointing out that Gillespie raised $2.2 million in the first quarter of the year, as his campaign reported this week. The problem with that logic is that 2 out of every 5 donors were not residents of Virginia and so they can't cast a vote come November. In other words, nearly 50 percent of the fundraising for Gillespie is coming from out of state.
That doesn't exactly speak to a motivated collection of support in the commonwealth, which is why it seems like a risk for all of these candidates, including Libertarian challenger Robert Sarvis, to ignore voters in rural Virginia. Here in the Valley, candidates for office in Staunton have already held multiple forums, to discuss their views. All candidates in Waynesboro are running unopposed, but they still held events and came forward to present their case. Ignoring places that Republicans have historically held strong support seems like an odd decision. It's the same for any political party. If voters aren't motivated, they likely stay home. If they stay home, the thought of a competitive race goes farther and farther away.
That lack of motivation already seems to be setting in, with polls constantly giving Warner a double digit lead. This despite the fact every Republican points out that Warner has voted along the same lines as President Obama a majority of the time. We're not even to the convention and already, it seems to be a tired line. Letters from Republican readers say they want to know why they should vote for a candidate, not why they shouldn't vote for their opponent.
A Roanoke College poll puts Warner ahead by 27 percent, while the Christopher Newport poll gives him a 20 point lead. Here in the Valley, more than half of the voters in our online poll pick Warner over the rest of the field. After a week of offering the poll, which still can be taken on the News Virginian's website, 54.5 percent of the voters would re-elect Warner. Ed Gillespie comes in second,with 35 percent and the others all fall below 4 percent.
The majority of those votes come from friends of our page on Facebook and so we're able to see that 80 percent were from Augusta County and Waynesboro. This is an area that heavily supported Ken Cuccinelli and Mark Obenshain in their bids for governor and attorney general respectively, yet several hundred say they'd rather see a Democratic candidate re-elected than any of the other options.
While the Senate race is a focus here, the same argument could be applied to all political campaigns. Get out and tell people your message or you run the risk of being “that guy I can't remember” on Election Day.