Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Life In Batttleground State Virginia: It's Getting Ugly

I moved out of my NYC apartment and into the folks' place in Northern Virginia. I've been here for less than a week and am still playing catch-up. As the election was heating up mid-month, I got really excited about the idea of voting in Virginia (Battleground State!), where my vote could really make a difference. Unfortunately, I had already missed the Virginia voter registration deadline and I was stuck having to arrange for an absentee New York ballot. That hasn't stopped me from taking part in all the indecisive fun here, though.

Last week when I crossed the American Legion bridge into Virginia, I saw the usual old-school welcome sign:

Really, Virginia? Really? Do you know it's 2008?

Below it were symptoms of this fine state's -- er, commonwealth's -- indecision: a McCain/Palin sign and an Obama/Biden sign, right next to each other. The further into Virginia I drove (and I had about 11 miles still to go at this point), the more campaign signs I saw, not only for the number one office but also for House and Senate races. They are EVERYWHERE here. And it doesn't stop there. Every time the phone rings it's a campaign worker urging Fairfax County residents to vote one way or the other. (Apparently McCain's recorded voice itself has called here, but I haven't been home for that.) Worse yet, the other night some dude showed up at our door! Now I have to be surreptitious in ascertaining who's knocking at the door so as not to alert them of my presence within. It's either that or make a scene. I almost told the mailman to get the eff off my property today. (See, that's funny because it's not my property. And because he's the mailman and he has what I want.)

Then of course there are the TV commercials. In New York I saw the occasional TV ad for Obama or McCain, but here you can't pass a single commercial break without at least two political campaign ads. And they're getting ugly. A popular (read: ubiquitous) one now -- which is not endorsed by John McCain -- features an empty oval office chair (um . . . so what? We're used to that.) and narration from Scary-Voiced Dude reminding us that "this crisis" will be Obama's first. Scary-Voiced Dude doesn't stop there. Oh no. He also insults Americans, chiding us for considering electing "one of the most inexperienced candidates" ever to this high office. So now in addition to being terrified I'm also being reproached. Nice.

Another anti-Obama ad, this one approved by McCain, focuses on Joe Biden's foot-in-mouth ("Oh wait, guys, I meant tongue-in-cheek! See, it was all just a silly misunderstanding!") blunder. I mean, when Biden gives them material like that, these commercial-maker guys don't even have to work! They just print the highlights of his speech across the screen and have Scary-Voiced Dude announce at the end that Barack Obama is "untested" and "dangerous" and they've got advertising magic!

Having just moved to the Old Dominion, I don't have much of a handle on the local House and Senate races, but their ads are no less ruthless. My favorite -- and I don't even remember whom it promotes or whom it slanders -- ends with the following: "[Candidate's name here]: too corrupt, even for Congress." Classic! Because, you know, the candidate the ad promotes has juuuuust the right amount of corruption for Congress. A regular Goldilocks.

But they're not all malicious. Some ads just don't say anything. A current Obama ad begins with the senator narrating, "John McCain wants to scare you. I want you to know what I believe." The next 26 seconds are chock-full of idealism regulated by a steady hand, a firm resolve, and a warm smile, as close to aw shucks as Obama is ever going to get. But does it promise anything? No? And it doesn't slander the other guy either? Bo-ring. That's the thing, see. Obama is out-spending McCain by oodles (that's a precise mathematical term) on TV ads, but I can't seem to retain the content of any of them.

With the election less than a week away, I'm looking forward to seeing what kind of final-stretch antics are pulled out. McCain doesn't buy into the polls, so Virginia is still very much up for grabs in his mind, and he wants it. Obama wants it too. But we Virginians don't show our hand easily. See, being wooed may get old, but being a tease never does.

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