The view from Virginia as US votes tomorrow

November 7, 2016
The view from Virginia as US votes tomorrow

The View from the Govenor’s Mansion in the Commonwealth of Virgina - established as a state in 1788; home to Jamestown, the first English settlement on the Eastern seaboard - is Blue - ish. ??

Terry McAuliffe is the 72nd Governor of the State. ?His credentials are dyed in indigo. ?An Irish Catholic lawyer, turned millionaire realtor and internet venture capitalist, McAuliffe is the former Chair of the Democratic National Committee (think Asiedua Nketia for Ghana’s governing National Democratic Congress and Freddie Blay for the New Patriotic Party, its largest competitor). ?

McAuliffe was Co-Chair of President Bill Clinton’s re-elelction campaign; and by deliberate design (no doubt) Chairman of current Democratic Presidential aspirant Hilary Clinton’s failed 2008 Presidential bid. ?Many considered then and with the benefit of hindsight were right - that the 2008 outing was a dry run for Clinton, testing the waters and staking her claim, in the future. And she is back.

If you insist on a Ghana ‘equivalent’ of dry runs in the Fourth Republic then think President John Agyekum Kufuor having a go in1996 (against President J.J. Rawlings) and then winning the 2000 presidential election for the NPP. ?Remember too, that President John Evans Atta Mills (NDC) tried three times before he moved, albeit briefly and tragically into Christianbourg Castle, then the seat of Government in Ghana. ?Remember too, that Nana Addo Danquah Akufo-Addo, presidential candidate of the NPP is in his third bid for the presidency. ?President John Dramani Mahama is on his second bid - in his own right. ?As Vice President, in 2011 he got an automatic shoe in when President Mills made history by becoming the first sitting President to die in office. ??

Governor McAulliffe who was born in New York has lived the walk and his ambitions have not always delivered immediate gratification. ?In 2009, McAuliffe tried and failed to become Governor of Virginia. ?In 2013, after having presumably established his credentials and secured the ground, as it were, he run again, this time unopposed within the Democratic Party for Governor and won; 47.8% of the popular vote. ?The move into the Govenor’s mansion for the McAuliffe family must have been sweet. ?And. ?Objects in the mirror are far closer than you think. ?McAuliife's Republican opponent won 45.2% of the vote, right behind him. ?So, no hanging about.

Governor McAuliffe must sleep both well and lightly. ?In June, 2016, the Democratic Presidential hopeful, Mrs. Hilary Rodham Clinton led her competitor, Republican nominee Donald Trump by an average 45% to 38%. ?At 1:20am today, somebody in the Democratic party office in charge of communications is thinking - the Democrats are running a negative campaign about Trump on one of the many television channels that American insists on having. ?Given Trump’s multiple and repeated public gaffes on every possible issue, the copy editor for the Democratic’s would have chosen the material - swear words, threatening to bomb … - for insomniacs with lazy ease.?

For more than a century when its initial fortunes were built on the tobacco trade, Virigina, a fast growing and demographically diverse state, has correctly predicted and voted (68.97%) for the winning presidential candidate. ?

Virginia is home to low sales tax and the shopaholics delight known as Tyson’s Corner (there is the general mall and the plus version at the Galleria); just as well. ?In terms of favouring one party or the there, Virigina is defiantly skirt and blouse. ?It has preferred Democratic candidates including outgoing Barack Obama in 2008 and 2013 55.17%. ?Republican presidents have won in Virginia 44.83%. ?So, it can happen, it has. ?Viriginia also voted for George W. Bush. ?Twice. ?Bush the Junior, who took on the Red mantle of the Republican party and ? has been eloquent in his non enthusiasm for the?

There are 13 Presidential electoral votes (2.4%) and almost 5% of the 270 electoral votes on offer in Virginia and in this toe to toe ‘historical election’, aspirants Clinton and Trump will need to bank with a comfortable margin, every ’traditional’ seat. ?On paper, Mrs. Clinton has it in the bag, albeit with a margin that is comfortable but it is not a Ketu South or Bantama type of shoe in. ?

Virginia, with its capital in Richmond, is predicable - enjoys a growth rate that makes it 13th highest in the US, with more than 8 million inhabitants, it has the 12th largest population, the average family size is smaller than the US, some 66% of people own their homes that cost an average of $250,000 and spend close to $2000 a month on mortgage payments for their homes. ?Virginians are educated - some 35.8% of its residents have a Bachelor’s Degree or higher, from their homes it takes them an average of 30 minutes to travel to work (infrastructure has to work), in 2014, the average annual income was $65,000 a year.

Virginia should also not be taken for granted- its diversity almost 40% are non whites (African Americans 19-20%; Hispanic or Latino 7-9%;, ?Asian 5-6.6% and Native American 0.5-1%) - is qualified. ?Almost one quarter of the people who live in Virginia work for the Government so politics is prevalent not just as a headline but in the bread and butter daily concerns and take home pay of many families.?

If you must know, 8 presidents of America were born in Virginia, 7 American presidents are buried here. ?This is hallowed ground. ? And blood has been spilt here before. ?Half the battles of the American Civil War were fought in Virginia. The White House is of course located firmly in the District of Columbia. ?Remember that half of America’s population lives within driving distance (500 miles) of America.

I will be reporting for the Business and Financial Times from Virginia for the next five days. ?Sampling views from the media and of 5 people who live and work in this slice of the American pie. ?Governor McAuliffe will keep his job after November 8th. ?Unlike Ghana where Governors (our equivalent of Mayors are handpicked by the centre, report and work exclusively to the dictates of the centre), McAulillfe has to multitask - deliver on his immediate mandate to balance budgets and meet the growing needs and aspirations of Viriginians and hope that his performance does enough to get his party’s candidate elected to the big job. ?Based on the first interviews, conducted, neither Clinton nor Trump should go to bed quite yet.


By Nana Yaa OFORI-ATTA, Special Correspondent for US Elections, Business and Financial Times